A Houston Drug Cop’s Lies Sent This Man to Prison for 25 Years
Four years ago, Frederick Jeffery was sentenced to 25 years in prison for possessing five grams of methamphetamine—a bit more than the weight of a single sugar packet. That draconian punishment, which was enhanced based on prior convictions, was appalling enough by itself. But now it turns out that Jeffery was convicted based on lies, as he has always insisted.
Harris County, Texas, Judge Stacy M. Allen yesterday recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reverse Jeffery’s conviction, saying it resulted from “a pattern of deceit involving fictional drug buys, perjured search warrant affidavits, and false testimony to a jury.” The Houston narcotics officer who framed Jeffery, Gerald Goines, is the same corrupt cop who used similar methods to instigate a January 2019 drug raid that killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, a middle-aged couple whom Goines falsely accused of selling heroin from their home at 7815 Harding Street.
“Frederick Jeffery’s case is a due process disaster,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “In the wake of Harding Street, it is clear that Gerald Goines and other members of the Houston Police Department Narcotics Division engaged in a years-long scheme involving fictional drug buys, perjured warrants and phony overtime. Individuals like Frederick Jeffery were collateral damage.”
Jeffery’s case is about more than one bad cop. His arrest and conviction show how lax supervisors, incurious prosecutors, deferential judges, credulous jurors, and inattentive defense attorneys let bad cops send innocent people to prison.
In a search warrant affidavit he filed on October 25, 2016, Goines swore that a confidential informant had bought marijuana two days earlier from “a black male” who was about 30 years old and “known by the street name of ‘B'” inside a house at 2807 Nettleton Street. Based on that information, Goines wanted to search the house, which is where he arrested Jeffery on October 27. In a separate incident report, Goines said the same informant had bought crack cocaine at 2811 Nettleton Street, next door to the house where she had supposedly bought marijuana, the following day.
The informant, “C.I. #5696,” was the same woman who Goines would later claim had bought black-tar heroin from a middle-aged “white male, whose name is unknown,” at 7815 Harding Street. After the Harding Street raid, she denied that she had made any such purchase, which Goines admitted he had invented.
In a recorded interview with Houston police on November 7, 2019, three months after Goines was charged with murder in connection with the Harding Street raid, the C.I. likewise said she had not bought crack at 2811 Nettleton Street. She said she and Goines “started doing things ‘the wrong way’ about three or four years prior to the interview,” Judge Allen writes. “She would get paid for some buys she did not actually make.” But the C.I. “was not questioned about 2807 Nettleton specifically.”
On Monday, nearly three years later, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office did ask the informant about the purported marijuana purchase. She “stated that she did not make a buy at 2807 Nettleton and has never made a buy on Nettleton Street.” Allen notes that Jeffery’s arrest “would not have occurred but for the perjured search warrant affidavit and resulting warrant.”
When Goines and Sgt. Brent Batts arrived to serve that warrant two days later, Goines testified, he saw Jeffery and another man, Orville Jackson, standing on the front porch. According to Goines, Jeffery was locking the burglar bars covering the front door. Goines said he found a set of keys, one of which fit the front door and one of which fit the burglar bars, on the front lawn.
Jackson, who allegedly “tossed a bag of crack cocaine onto the grass,” was arrested for possession of that drug. On a table inside the house, the officers found bags of pills that, according to subsequent testing, contained 4.7 grams of methamphetamine, which Goines linked to Jeffery. During the ensuing arrest, Goines claimed, Jeffery asked for his cellphone, which he supposedly said was on the table where the cops found the pills. Goines said that is also where he found the phone.
Jeffery said that conversation never happened. “The conversation was not recorded and no other officers heard it,” Allen notes. According to Goines’ incident report, “officers did not activate their body-worn cameras until transporting the suspects to the jail.” Goines did not mention the purported conversation in that report but claimed to remember it 18 months later at Jeffery’s trial.
Jeffery denied that the phone was his, adding that cellphone records would confirm that point. In body camera video recorded after the arrests, Jackson says the cellphone is his, while Jeffery says, “I ain’t got no motherfucking phone.”
That exchange by itself should have been enough for reasonable doubt about the alleged link between Jeffery and the phone, which in turn supposedly proved that the methamphetamine was also his. The lack of video showing what happened before the arrests was also suspicious. Jefferey alleged that “the officers altered, disposed of, and/or erased exculpatory camera footage.”
Allen says the trial judge allowed the prosecution to rely on Goines’ account of what Jeffery had said beca
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