NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas — **EDITOR'S NOTE -- the video attached was produced in May 2020
A jury in Nacogdoches County awarded three former State Troopers $500,000 each in a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Public Safety today.
On May 26, 2020, four DPS troopers filed a lawsuit for "retaliation concerning reporting of an unlawful quota system for traffic stops and arrests implemented by a sergeant in the Nacogdoches DPS Office", according to the original filing.
This suit was a result of troopers Joel Barton, John Henley, Rodney Mahan, and John Riggins in Lufkin trying to stop an illegal ticket-writing scheme in their office, which led to them being harassed, and later a stall of their careers. They claimed the DPS violated whistleblower laws and the First Amendment.
The trial began on June 21, 2022, and witnesses finished their appearances on June 24. The judge found that Henley had no adverse action taken against him, leading to his dismissal from the suit.
The jury closed today for deliberations, in which they took less than an hour to return the verdict. They found that the three troopers' retaliation against the quotas led to the adverse actions of being transferred and no promotions in their careers. The three were awarded a total of $1.5 million, or $500,000 each.
"It sends a strong message that what happened was wrong," said Sean Hightower, attorney for former troopers Barton, Mahan and Riggins.
According to the original lawsuit filed, the 4 troopers originally reported the scheme in 2018 to the Office of the Inspector General that Sergeant Robert Shugart implemented a quota system that they refused to participate in.
After their reporting, Sgt. Shugart and others within the DPS proceeded to retaliate against them by transferring them to other duty stations away from family; denied them promotion opportunities; violently berated them in front of others; denied vacation; and forced them to work dangerously long hours, the document stated.
Sgt. Shugart still holds his position within DPS, after the troopers sought to have him removed from his seat according to the original lawsuit filed.
An appeal by the state is still possible.