NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KETK) — On Tuesday, a jury in Nacogdoches County ruled that three former State Troopers be awarded $500,000 each in a lawsuit that was filed against the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Troopers Rodney Mahan, Joel Barton, Jr. and John Riggins were awarded a total of $1.5 million in damages after a two-year legal battle with Texas DPS over accusations that department was conducting illegal ticket-writing schemes, and subsequently intimidating officers that refused to comply.
On May 26, 2020, a formal complaint was filed against Texas DPS after four State Troopers, Rodney Mahan, John H. Henley, III, Joel Barton, Jr. and John Riggins, who claimed that the sergeant at the Nacogdoches duty station was enforcing an unlawful quota system for arrests and traffic stops.
According to the original case file, the four alleged that Sergeant Robert Shugart had commanded his officers to make “more than a certain number of arrests and traffic stops or be subjected to ridicule and harassment” by the sergeant, which is in direct violation of Texas law. The document further stated that Sgt. Shugart also offered monetary and other prizes to troopers who made the most arrests and traffic stops in a given period, which also contradicts Texas law and DPS policy.
After the four troopers reported their sergeant’s unlawful activity, the document stated that Sgt. Shugart and others within DPS, including senior members of leadership, enacted a “systematic campaign of retaliation and intimidation” in an effort to silence and punish the troopers for speaking out against the illegal quota system.
These retaliation efforts included transferring troopers to “other duty stations away from their families, denied promotion opportunities, violently berated in front of others, denied vacation and forced to work dangerously long hours,” all of which violate policy.
The troopers filed suit for violations of their First Amendment right to free speech and petition, as well as for violations of the Texas Whistleblower Act.
After more than two years, the case finally went to trial on June 21 and lasted through Tuesday, June 28. The jury concluded that Mahan, Barton and Riggins should be awarded $500,000 each in compensatory damages, both past and future, for injury to name, reputation and mental/emotional anguish, among others.