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Harris County Sheriff Candidate Louis Guthrie Wins Trial Against Adrian Garcia
Louis Guthrie, candidate for the Republican nomination for Harris County Sheriff, won an important court case last week in Judge Caroline Baker's 295th Civil District Court. Shortly after Sheriff Adrian Garcia took office in 2009, then Lt. Guthrie was (as many would say - wrongfully) terminated from the Harris County Sheriff's Department after an incident involving Guthrie's wife having money stolen from her car at a carwash in Humble, Texas.
The Civil Service Commission upheld the termination based on facts presented by the Sheriff's office at the time. However, during the civil suit trial, it was discovered that evidence showing no wrongful actions occurred was withheld from the commission.
Following is a press release from Louis Guthrie:
Following a bench trial in District Court, Louis Guthrie was vindicated, and the Sheriff's Civil Service Commission's decision to uphold his firing was set aside and the case remanded for proceedings consistent with the Court's Order. What does that mean? It means that after the Court found the Civil Service Commission, and vis-à-vis the Sheriff, had violated the Texas Government Code, the decision in violation of State Law was set aside. Louis should get his job back along with back pay and benefits.
The trial was confined to the record of the Commission's hearing on May 12, 2010. In that trial, all the Sheriff's Office's warts were revealed; Major Silvio admitting one of Guthrie's alleged violations of policy was in fact the accepted policy and practice of the Department, (This was the same Major Silvio who had previously testified in another hearing that he could not name any violations of policy by Louis Guthrie), the misrepresentations of law by the County Attorney to the Commission, and unbelievably, the concealing of evidence.
The concealing of evidence was probably the most disturbing thing the Court heard. Not only were audio interviews of witnesses hidden, but video recovered from the scene was not even mentioned in the report. When asked why he hid evidence in this matter, the handpicked Internal Affairs Investigator testified under oath, "There wasn't anything on there that would indicate that Mr. Guthrie did anything wrong." Translation: The decision to fire him has been made and we don't want to present evidence that shows he did nothing wrong. Had this concealing of evidence occurred in a criminal case, the investigator could be charged with a 3rd degree felony.
After showing repeated violations by the Sheriff's Office and the Civil Service Commission of their own rules, state law, and the U.S. Constitution, Guthrie's attorney John Denholm told the Court, at some point the law has to mean something.
Because the Commission's decision was to uphold the Sheriff's illegal firing of Guthrie was clearly in violation of the law, the case returns to the Civil Service Commission, which should order Louis Guthrie's reinstatement with back pay and benefits. That is if they follow the law….
I have known Louis Guthrie since before the alleged incident took place. I am very familiar with the facts of the case. I am very happy to learn that the courts have set aside this ruling from the Civil Service Commission and believe that, after all the facts are reviewed, Guthrie will be reinstated with back pay.
It is my belief, the termination of Guthrie by Garcia was a political payback to LULAC (is it a coincidence that he was terminated on Cinco De Mayo, 2009?) because of his tough stands on illegal immigration during Guthrie's 2008 run for Precinct 4 Constable. That the department would withhold evidence during the Civil Service hearing shows how far Garcia will go for a political vendetta. Certainly not what we need in a Harris County Sheriff.
Guthrie and his wife, Cheryl, are greatly relieved with the court's ruling. This ordeal has brought them both a lot of financial and emotional stress. There is great satisfaction in knowing you are right. Even greater satisfaction in being proven right. Judge Baker confirmed that for both of them last week with her ruling.
Guthrie, clearly the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination for Harris County Sheriff, could now win the nomination without a runoff and move forward to, once again, faceoff against Garcia in the November election. That should make for some interesting debates this fall. Stay tuned...