Prosecutors in Harding Street raid seek to delay federal civil trial

Miya Shay Image
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Prosecutors in raid seek to delay federal civil trial
Prosecutors fear findings of a civil trial could upend their case in the criminal trial against HPD officers in the no-knock raid.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The ongoing legal battles related to the Harding Street no-knock raid that killed a Houston couple and left several police officers injured took another turn in court Monday.

So far, there has been a dozen criminal indictments handed down, involving several Houston police officers in the Harding Street raid that killed Rhogena Nicholas and her husband Dennis Tuttle.

Monday, prosecutors asked Federal Judge Al Bennett to hit the pause button on the federal civil suit the families filed. Bennett quizzed both prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, as well as the family's civil attorneys.

Sitting in court were several criminal defense attorneys representing the various police officers who were indicted. They are not involved in the hearing, but the ruling by the judge could play an important role in what happens with their clients.

"People related to the victims of Harding Street sued the City of Houston and Houston Police for their deaths," explained Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg after the hearing. "Similarly, we're prosecuting the officers responsible for criminal accountability. And this was our portion, to push their discovery to a slight delay, because we believe it could compromise our ability to give the officers a fair trial in criminal trial."

SEE RELATED STORY: Family of Rhogena Nicholas alleges HPD using overtime fraud allegations as raid cover-up

The family's civil attorneys do not want a delay. Mike Doyle, who is representing the Nicholas family, said it's been more than two years since his client was gunned down by police, and her elderly mother deserves answers.

"Ms. Nicholas is 86 years old. She's survived COVID, she's going to fight to the end to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened, and how it happened," said Doyle, who argued that a civil case in the federal courts could go on without hindering any of the criminal prosecutions.

"What we have here is a situation where every single one of the defendants in the criminal case has all the information that the DA has, and the only ones who don't have the information are the families of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle," Doyle said.

SEE RELATED: Grand jury 'indicted a hero' with murder in deadly HPD botched raid, lawyer says

Bennett did not rule immediately on the district attorney's request for a delay on the civil trial, but he did ask to review some information related to the cases.

Doyle said he saw that as a victory.

"For the first time ever, the judge ordered the forensic science stuff be sent to him. This is the first that anyone with independent eyes has seen it, outside of HPD and the Forensic Center," he said.

"Our prosecutors have worked tirelessly for the last two years to unravel the truth," said Ogg. "We believe the 12 indictments that we have show that, and I look forward to presenting this case and the evidence in this case to the criminal jury without trying it in the court of public opinion first."

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