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Houston City Council to vote on settlement with former congressman who claimed police violated his rights during arrest

January 26, 2019 GMT

The city of Houston could soon settle a lawsuit filed by a well-known attorney and former congressman who alleges his constitutional rights were violated during a 2014 arrest by Houston police.

Houston City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a $100,000 settlement in attorney Craig Washington’s case against the city, Harris County and the police officer who ordered the attorney’s arrest for allegedly unlawfully carrying a firearm.

Washington was booked on Feb. 14, 2014 after walking outside with a shotgun to see who was breaking beer bottles in a parking area of a club near his home, he said.

Officers arrived on an unrelated loud noise complaint, and Houston police Sgt. Jose Salazar eventually had Washington arrested on the misdemeanor charge, “not because of something Plaintiff had done, but because of who the Plaintiff is,” the lawsuit alleges.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office declined to accept charges when an officer said that they “had a man walking around with a shotgun,” which isn’t illegal, according to federal court documents. Salazar then personally called the prosecutor’s office to say that Washington had a gun on a property licensed to sell liquor, and the criminal charge was accepted.

A city attorney told an appeals court judge the charge was wrong, and that Salazar incorrectly believed that having any sort of weapon in the parking lot of a licensed premises was illegal, court transcripts show.

Washington posted bond, and court records show the charge was dismissed a month later. Washington’s 12-gauge shotgun was returned to him.

Washington filed suit against the city of Houston and HPD officer Salazar in February 2016, claiming that he was legally allowed to carry the weapon under the Second Amendment. He said he has a concealed handgun license.

The city and county were dismissed as defendants, leaving Salazar as the only remaining defendant, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“The city, the officer and the plaintiff agreed to settle the case for $100,000, subject to city council approval,” the statement said.

Washington declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements.

The settlement would pay Washington and his attorney $100,000 from the city’s Property and Casualty Fund. Washington originally sued for $500,000.

Washington has faced weapons charges before. He was previously indicted in 2008 on a charge of aggravated assault after allegedly shooting at teens outside of his law office. He agreed to two years of probation on that charge.

He’s also been publicly reprimanded twice before for professional misconduct after State Bar officials sided with former clients, in 2014 and 2008, who filed complaints against the lawyer. He was suspended from practice of law in 2015 for alleged professional misconduct.

Washington, a Democrat, represented the 18th Congressional District for five years before being ousted by Sheila Jackson Lee in 1994.

samantha.ketterer@chron.com

Twitter.com/sam_kett