Candidate Bell questions former Sheriff Garcia in wake of ABC-13 investigation

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- This week at a forum on mental health issues, mayoral candidate Chris Bell told the audience that former Sheriff Adrian Garcia owes voters answers about a mentally ill inmate found in a trash-filled, feces-littered jail cell during Garcia's watch.

"Nothing could be clearer than the case of Terry Goodwin," Bell said to Garcia at the Houston Mayoral Forum on Behavioral Health on Monday. "Your chief deputy said he showed you the pictures of that filthy cell, told you what had happened and you chose to do nothing.

"It wasn't until a whistleblower went to Channel 13 and took the pictures and showed a reporter what had happened and they started asking questions that finally you held other individuals accountable and fired some people," Bell said. "But you didn't hold yourself accountable."

Bell was referencing a June Ted Oberg Investigates interview with Garcia's former Chief Deputy Fred Brown, who cast doubts on Garcia's often-repeated responses that he was kept in the dark by his top deputies about the Goodwin case and that he knew nothing about the deplorable conditions the inmate was kept in until ABC-13 began asking questions in September 2014.

See the report with Garcia's former chief deputy here.

See the original ABC-13 investigation here.

As late as April 24, 2015 Garcia said he knew "nothing" about Goodwin's condition before questions by ABC-13.

"What I know today is nothing that I can recall," he said in an April 24 press conference. "Not to that magnitude."

Garcia said as much in response to Bell on Monday.

"It definitely shouldn't have happened under my watch," Garcia said. "But when I found out about it, I took full responsibility. I took action."

Brown told ABC-13 that he informed Garcia about Goodwin in October 2013, just days after a jail compliance team found that the inmate had been left in a cell for weeks. When jailers opened his cell door, Goodwin was found wearing a tattered orange jail uniform and surrounded by swarms of bugs. The compliance team took photos of Goodwin and the fetid cell.

Brown also said he showed Garcia those photos of Goodwin.

"I am not good at talking ill of other people, I try not to do that," Brown said in the June interview with Ted Oberg Investigates. "Either you can believe me or believe what he said and I have been consistent in what I said."

Garcia disputed Brown's memory at the forum.

"Why people say things and why that employee believes what he believes, I can't speak to that," Garcia said. "What I can speak to is the fact that it was clearly unacceptable."

Photos from Terry Goodwin case

Bell told ABC-13 Wednesday that he believes Brown was telling the truth.

"The fact that someone could've been told about such a horrific situation and just to protect his own political career chose to do nothing and sweep it under the carpet, is a very, very significant issue in this campaign," Bell said. "Voters are entitled to answers about what transpired, especially since his hand-picked chief deputy says he's lying about the situation. People are entitled to answers."

Mashell Lambert, Goodwin's mother, told ABC-13 that Garcia's discrediting of his own chief deputy is concerning.

"Dumbfounding," she said after watching Garcia's comments. "I just think he is again, trying to get away from the truth."

Garcia declined Wednesday ABC-13 interview requests.

The Goodwin case shocked the community. It was brought to light by whistleblowers who reached out to Ted Oberg Investigates last year with the allegations and photos taken from inside the jail. The whistleblowers were unhappy that a year had passed with no one being disciplined for the poor treatment of Goodwin.

Shards of Goodwin's orange uniform were hanging from the ceiling light when he was found, photos show. Whistleblowers said Goodwin's sink, toilet and shower drain were clogged, not just with feces, but with toilet paper in an apparent attempt by Goodwin to cover his own waste and with orange rinds, perhaps in futile effort to mask the smell.

Jail experts called it the "worst case of jail abuse in Texas in a decade."

Six jail guards were ultimately fired by Garcia in April over the incident and Garcia forced Brown into retirement.

Two criminal cases in connection with Goodwin's treatment are ongoing, as is a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
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