A battle between prosecutors and the president of the local police union has broken out in regard to former officer Amber Guyger’s murder of Botham Jean.
The trial is over and Guyger was sentenced to 10 years for entering the wrong apartment — Jean’s — thinking there was an intruder and killing him.
On the night Guyger killed Jean, Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata arrived on the scene. Guyger, as reported by CBS DFW, was sitting in the back of a patrol car when Mata arrived. At trial, “prosecutors used security camera[s] video to suggest the Dallas Police Association acted improperly when DPA President Mike Mata arrived on the scene after the shooting,” the outlet reported.
The footage showed Mata leaning into the patrol car and then telling another officer to turn off the car’s recording devices while Guyger was speaking to her attorney over the phone. This is what prosecutors and a civil rights group appear to be claiming is a cover up and some kind of conspiracy to alter Guyger’s account of what occurred in the apartment.
Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said last week she would launch an internal review of the situation.
Steve Stribley, president of the Texas Fraternal Order of Police, released a statement defending Mata, saying the officer went to the scene as president of the local union, not as an officer of the law. His full statement:
The Fraternal Order of Police Texas State Lodge supports Sergeant Mike Mata and his efforts to expose what appears to be a blatant case of prosecutorial misconduct by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.
Despite making claims to the contrary, prosecutor Jason Hermus knew that Mike Mata was responding in his capacity as President of the Dallas Police Association to the scene of an officer involved shooting, In his role as DPA President, he had a legal responsibility to request recording devices in a squad car be turned off as Officer Amber Guyger was going to talk to her attorney on her cell phone.
Even a first-year law student knows that her conversation was protected under attorney-client privilege and any effort to record such confidential communication would be illegal.
Hermus was willing to make a despicable, false, and theatrical accusation to win a conviction, even if it meant deteriorating the public’s trust in the Dallas Police Department and discrediting a decorated police officer who has spent the last 25 years of his life protecting families.
Patrick Yoes, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, also defended Mata in his own statement:
I was outraged to learn that Dallas Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus deliberately and maliciously attacked the character of Mike Mata, the President of the Dallas FOP Lodge, in the course of prosecuting Officer Amber Guyger. It was unnecessary, it was wrong and it was so grossly irresponsible that I believe it constitutes prosecutorial misconduct.
Mike Mata responded to the scene, not as an officer of the Dallas Police Department, but as the representative of the Dallas Police Association—the union to which Officer Guyger belongs. When she telephoned her attorney, President Mata requested that all recording devices be turned off. Anyone who has seen an episode of TV’s Law and Order knows that conversations between a client and her attorney are privileged communications. As her union representative, President Mata would have been negligent had he not made that request If the accused were not a police officer, there would be no question that recording devices should be deactivated ‘k hitt.. [sic] a client and her attorney communicate.
The false and reckless accusations made by the Assistant District Attorney, not only smears the character of a law enforcement officer of 25 years, but it undermines the public’s trust in the Dallas Police Department. He should be ashamed of himself, and he should apologize for his blatant misconduct.