See an update at the bottom of this post on who may have filmed the video that's now the basis of this lawsuit.
A few years back, Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth Hayden -- or "Rowdy," as he likes to be called -- opened his doors for a
Montgomery County Police Reporter cameraman to shadow him and his deputies on the job. The result was Cops-style reality show, narrated by Dean Cain (yes, that Dean Cain), dubbed Texas Takedown: The Real Men in Black, which asked viewers to "stick around and ride with Rowdy as he continues to clean up east county."
Evidently cleaning up east county also meant lying in court documents and on the stand to justify a warrantless drug raid. According to documents filed in court and a Texas Takedown video showing one 2011 drug raid, Constable Hayden's deputies made up key details about the bust in an affidavit and in court testimony.
The night of September 22, 2011, "Rowdy" and his boys drove out to Perla Carr's double-wide trailer in New Caney after getting a tip from an informant that someone inside was growing marijuana. An affidavit for an after-the-fact warrant signed by a deputy constable says that after circling the trailer, "Deputies detected a strong smell of marijuana coming from the East end of the residence." One deputy claimed he saw marijuana plants after peering into a window covered by a partially torn curtain.
"After several more attempts to make contact Deputies were met at the front door by the listed suspects," Perla Carr and her 33-year-old son Zachary May, according to the affidavit. Inside, deputies found a hydroponic growing system and dozens of marijuana plants. Authorities eventually dropped all charges against Carr. May, charged with felony marijuana possession, pleaded his case down to a class A misdemeanor the following year, according to court records.
But here's where things get a bit weird. In March 2012, two months before May pleaded guilty, he tried to get his case thrown out by arguing that deputies only had evidence because they broke into his trailer during an illegal, warrantless raid. According to a transcript of that hearing, two deputy constables testified that they didn't break into May's trailer because the front door was "unlocked."
Ruling against May at the end of that 2012 hearing, district court Judge Lisa Michalk said, "I find it very unlikely that police officers would break into a house in front of the Montgomery County Police Reporter. So I don't find that the Defendant was credible, although that's what he said."
Well, it's not just what May says. That's also what the video of the raid shows. And not only does it show deputies breaking into the trailer through the front door, but the video claims that while on the scene "Rowdy" called Montgomery County DA Ligon, who told the deputies to force entry.
Sometime after her own case was dismissed, May's mother found the Texas Takedown video posted on YouTube, showing deputies breaking into her trailer during the raid. For reasons that are still unclear, the video has since disappeared from YouTube - Carr's attorney, Houston civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen, provided the Houston Press a copy of the video.
Carr and Kallinen claim the video was shot by Scott Engle with the Montgomery County Police Reporter , who wrote a story about the raid the day after it happened in 2011. No one with the Police Reporter could be reached for comment, despite multiple attempts this week**(see update below).
In February, Carr filed a federal lawsuit against Montgomery County, Constable "Rowdy" Hayden, three of Hayden's deputy constables, and Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, who she claims told Hayden to break into her trailer without a warrant. Carr claims there were no exigent circumstances to justify a no-warrant raid, and says deputies later lied about how they entered the trailer.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Gray H. Miller allowed Carr's lawsuit to continue, although the judge dismissed Montgomery County DA Ligon as a defendant and threw out several other claims contained in the lawsuit -- like Carr's complaint that county officials conspired to prosecute her based on false information.
Constable Hayden's office did not return multiple requests for comment.
"While this conflicting evidence is troubling, and may indicate an agreement among officers to change their stories at some point, this evidence does not support a finding that an agreement occurred among the officers to violate plaintiff's rights before the search and seizure," Judge Miller wrote.
The Texas Takedown video shows other discrepancies in the deputies' accounts of the raid.
In court, the deputies insisted that information about May's grow operation came from a woman and a man who submitted an "anonymous tip," not an informant. Here's what Dean Cain has to say about that on the Texas Takedown video: "The informant says that he's had a falling out with the suspects. That his essential motive for turning them in is dislike." The video shows a man on camera talking to Constable Hayden and his deputies with his face blurred.
And three deputies who testified in court insisted no one pointed laser-sighted weapons at Carr or May once they entered the trailer and arrested them for pot possession. "Defendant says they have their laser sites on them," said Judge Michalk in 2012. "The police say no."
Well, the video shows otherwise.
Update 10/15/2014, 11:00 a.m.: Scott Engle with the Montgomery County Police Reporter called us back late this morning. He says he was not the cameraman who shot the Texas Takedown video, nor was the Police Reporter involved in any way with the project.
Texas Takedown, which actually has an IMDB page, lists local bondsman George Salazar as an executive producer for the show. Reached by phone this morning, Salazar said he introduced a local videographer, J. Andrew Lee, to the Precinct 4 Constable's office. "I had gone out with them a couple of times filming, but Lee was like the producer. Then he got in cahoots with people from California, like network-type people, and I couldn't even tell you what happened after that." Lee frequently promoted bail bond companies on his twitter feed until the tweets stopped in the summer of 2012.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.