GALVESTON

The city of Galveston has asked the Texas Attorney General’s office if it can stop the release of the body camera recordings of Donald Neely’s Aug. 3 arrest.

In a letter sent to The Daily News, 11 other news organizations and Neely’s attorneys, the city said it believed it is allowed to withhold the recordings under state law.

The recordings are believed to have documented what two Galveston police officers said and did while they arrested Neely in downtown Galveston on Aug. 3. Critics of the arrest have called for the public release of the tapes, so they can judge the officers’ actions and their treatment of Neely.

In the letter, Assistant City Attorney Mehran Jadidi cited part of the Texas Occupations Code that allows body camera recordings to be withheld while the event it depicts is part of an administrative investigation.

“The city believes it must withhold the requested materials based on the exceptions state in the occupations code,” Jadidi said. “There is an ongoing investigation by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office into the incidents which are the subject of the body worn camera footage.”

Appealing to the attorney general is a typical move by a government agency that believes it has a legal reason to withhold a public document.

The attorney general typically has 90 days to respond to the city’s request for a ruling.

Neely, a homeless, mentally ill black man, was arrested for trespassing at the Galveston Park Board Trustees building, 601 23rd St. While he was arrested, Neely was handcuffed and attached to a line held by a mounted Galveston police officer.

The officers then walked Neely about four city blocks, or 400 yards, to a staging area. The officers remained on the horses while Neely walked between them.

Neely’s arrest was photographed and recorded by passersby as he was walked down the street. When photographs of the arrest were shared on social media, they drew accusations of racism against the police department and the city.

Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale apologized for causing Neely “unnecessary embarrassment” during the arrest and said his officers used poor judgment while choosing to move Neely instead of waiting for a car to come to them.

Hale also signed off on two independent investigations, one by the Texas Rangers and one by the sheriff’s office, to determine if the officers violated any crimes or broke any department policies during the arrest.

On Friday, the Texas Rangers announced it had concluded its criminal inquiry and determined that criminal charges against the officers were not warranted.

The sheriff’s office has not concluded its administrative investigation, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

The city’s appeal to the attorney general is not unexpected.

Government entities are required by state law to respond to open records request within 10 business days of a request and to notify the person making the request if the entity intends to challenge the release of a document.

The city did face another unofficial deadline in regards to the body cameras.

Last week, Ben Crump, a civil attorney representing Neely and his family, announced he was giving the city a 30-day deadline to release the tapes publicly.

If the tapes were not released, Crump said he would organize a large civil rights march on Galveston on Sept. 15.

Crump initially said the march would only happen if the city did not meet the deadline. Last week, however, advertisements began circulating on social media advertising detailed plans for the march.

Asked about the flyers, Tezlyn Figaro, a spokeswoman for Crump, said the police had refused to release the recordings publicly, and the march will happen.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(9) comments

Donald Glywasky

Mr. Neely's attorney's have been provided a copy of the tape according to the District Attorney's Office, because it is a required disclosure in the criminal proceeding. The City has repeatedly committed to releasing the tape as soon as disclosure is permitted under the Occupation Code.

Emile Pope

And exactly where is this information located? And how did you come by it?

Donald Glywasky

I am the City Attorney.

Donald Glywasky

And if you want to read the statute itself, it is texas occupation code 1701,660

Miceal O'Laochdha

This sounds fair and reasonable, Don. I am a little surprised these two details were not included in John's story, since he appears to have interviewed at least one of your staff.

johnferguson Staff
John Wayne Ferguson

I'm happy to clarify.



Neely has two attorneys, one for his criminal trespassing charge and Mr. Crump, a civil attorney.



His criminal attorney and the Galveston County District Attorney's Office do have copies of the body camera recordings because it's evidence in that criminal investigation. They're also legally barred from releasing the evidence publicly.



Crump, the civil attorney, has called for the tapes to be released in a way that can be reviewed by the public. Similarly, The Daily News has requested the tapes so it can review and report on its contents. Those are the requests the city is challenging.



The city is also not citing the criminal investigation as its reasons for not releasing the tapes, but the sheriff's office ongoing administrative investigation.



Aside from the challenge mention in this article, there's been no indication that the city would oppose the release. In fact, the city's argument here is that's its required by state to withhold the tapes right now.



As to the detail about releasing the tape as soon as it's permitted. That's not a statement I've received from the city or its officials directly, but I have no reason to believe is untrue. Public records should be released as soon as possible after being requested.

City Manager

Let me make it clear for you John Wayne. The city will release the video AS SOON AS WE ARE LEGALLY ALLOWED TO DO SO. The city has no intentions of holding this video for any other reason. To hold it any further is not fair to Mr. Neely nor is it fair to the officers involved.



Thanks,



Brian Maxwell

City Manager

Stuart Crouch

Just wondering if someone is going to request the dispatch records (data & audio) to verify that there was, in fact, no available units for the transport of Mr. Neely, and also if such a request was made via radio or a mobile data terminal (MDT). Dispatch data should reveal the location and status of every on-duty unit on the island at the time of Neely's arrest. While I don't know if the city is citing a 'Section .108' exception to prevent the release of the requested records, it is hard for me to imagine that any such release would hinder or compromise an "administrative" investigation, as opposed to a criminal investigation.

Wayne Holt

One would have to assume the Texas Rangers also reviewed the videos, and they found no criminally culpable action so it's very unlikely any criminal civil rights violation took place. Is a civil violation possible? That will become apparent upon the release of the tapes and not before. Here are the standards of proof that contrasts the two types of violations:



The first response is for CRIMINAL - Second for CIVIL violations

Who is charged: Accused person - Usually an organization

Standard of proof: Beyond a reasonable doubt - Preponderance of evidence

Fact finder: Jury - Judge

Victim: Identified individuals - Individuals and/or representatives of a group or class

Remedy sought: Prison, fine, restitution, community service - Correct policies and practices, relief

for individuals

Govt's right to appeal: Very limited - Yes

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