AP NEWS

Injunction puts indicted Liberty County constable back in uniform

September 27, 2016

A Liberty County constable accused of being in cahoots with a phony Beaumont cop is back in uniform after a Travis County court granted an injunction that temporarily lifts his suspension while felony indictments are pending against him.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in May suspended Liberty County Pct. 6 Constable John Joslin and his chief deputy, Jim Cooper, citing an amended state law that allows the agency to take action against officers indicted on felony charges.

Chris Tritico, Joslin’s attorney, filed suit against the state agency, arguing in part that the suspension violates Joslin’s right to due process.

“If he is ultimately convicted of the charges against him, they have all the rights to do whatever it is they deem necessary,” said Tritico. “If he is not found guilty, then his license is not affected.”

Both Joslin and Cooper face felony indictments in cases connected to Michael Gelagotis, a 44-year-old Beaumont man convicted this year of impersonating police and unlawfully possessing body armor.

Joslin, who was indicted in Jefferson County on a perjury charge in January, is accused of lying about his relationship with Gelagotis, who was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and is now facing federal firearms charges.

Joslin, 48, has repeatedly said he is innocent. He is scheduled to enter his plea on the perjury charge during an Oct. 6 hearing.

He has already pleaded not guilty in Liberty County to two felony counts of tampering with a governmental record. That trial is expected to begin in January.

In the Liberty County case, Joslin is accused of creating a document authorizing issuance of a peace officer ID card while knowing it was false, according to the indictment.

The ID card was used to defraud a security system supplier and uniform store, the indictment says.

Cooper faces one felony count of tampering or fabricating physical evidence and one misdemeanor count of tampering with a government record, according to his indictment. No trial date has been set in Cooper’s case.

Tritico, and Cooper’s attorney, Greg Cagle, said they believe their clients will be exonerated at trial.

“The charge against Mr. Joslin, even if the accusation is true, amounts to a paperwork violation,” Tritico said.

Cagle said Cooper is “collateral damage” in the Joslin case.

“Mr. Cooper marked these IDs as ‘void’ and dropped them into evidence,” he said. “At the end of the day, this guy didn’t do anything wrong.”

Joslin won his primary re-election bid over two challengers on March 1 and faces no opponent in the November general election.

Before he was granted an injunction in September, Joslin honored his suspension by not wearing a uniform or carrying a gun or badge, Tritico said.

Over his 20-year career, Joslin has also worked for the Beaumont ISD police department, Cleveland Police Department, Chambers County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.

He was first publicly linked to Gelagotis in a video taken of a ceremony during halftime of a Houston Rockets game. Gelagotis was introduced as a “special deputy” from Joslin’s office.

Joslin previously has told The Enterprise he had no knowledge Gelagotis was misrepresenting himself and that he made him an honorary deputy for one night only for the event.

Former Beaumont PD Sgt. Keith Breiner pleaded guilty in May to abuse of official capacity. A 2015 police report laying out cause for Breiner’s arrest claimed the long-time officer without authorization signed correspondence on a department letterhead that requested a rifle for the department to sample for a one-year period.

Gelagotis, not charged with wrongdoing in that matter, emailed the letter to the gun manufacturer on Nov. 7, 2013, the affidavit stated.

Breiner received one year of probation and a $500 fine and was permanently stripped of his TCOLE license, court records show.

Joslin faces two to 10 years in prison if convicted of the felony charges.