Liberty County constable’s trial ends with hung jury

After hours of deliberation Wednesday, a Jefferson County jury told County Court at Law #3 Judge Clint Woods it was unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Liberty County Pct. 6 Constable John Joslin, who was accused of perjuring himself in a 2016 statement to police regarding a man convicted for impersonating a police officer.

Mickey Gelagotis, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to impersonating a police officer and unlawfully possessing body armor, testified in Joslin’s trial, claiming the constable knew he was not a licensed peace officer at the time he worked “extra jobs,” specifically those limited to certified peace officers. At the time, Joslin was the extra jobs coordinator for Tyler-based Innovative Surveillance Systems, making assignments for off-duty officers working extra jobs guarding pipelines and construction sites.

The perjury charge hinged on one sentence in the sworn statement Joslin made to Marcelo Molfino, an investigator for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, after an investigation began into Gelagotis’s crimes. The sentence from Joslin reads: “Mickey Gelagotis never worked any extra jobs for me.”

In the two-and-a-half-hour video interview, the constable expressed embarrassment for having been duped by Gelagotis and said he was unaware that Gelagotis was not a licensed peace officer until after his crimes were made public.

The two men met when Joslin, prior to being elected as constable, was employed by Beaumont ISD Police Department where Gelagotis worked on police cars and buses. Gelagotis convinced many law enforcement officers and agencies that he had served as a licensed peace officer in Louisiana, reportedly avoiding a background check when he was hired by Beaumont ISD.

Kevin Gehab, a rice farmer from Jefferson County, was called by the prosecution Tuesday to testify about his interactions with Gelagotis and Joslin near his Beaumont-area home. Gehab said he met Gelagotis after coming home one day to find his brown Ford F 250 parked in the road by his house.

“He was there every evening. I would get home about 6 p.m. and he would be there all night long,” said Gehab, adding that he could not actually see the pipeline through the trees 500 feet behind his house.

Gehab said he and Gelagotis discussed Gehab’s dissatisfaction in farming and Gelagotis suggested he apply for a job with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Gelagotis reportedly told Gehab he had connections with TDCJ officials so Gehab should use him as a reference. He even offered to help him get hired on by TDCJ, according to Gehab’s testimony.

Gehab said on at least two occasions Joslin showed up at his home. Gelagotis was already there, supposedly guarding the pipeline, but he walked over to Gehab and identified Joslin as his boss, a claim disputed by Joslin’s attorney, Chris Tritico of Houston-based Tritico and Rainey PLLC.

Tritico asked Gehab if Gelagotis identified himself as a peace officer while working pipeline security. Gehab said he had.

“Did you know he lied?” Tritico asked.

Gehab replied, “I don’t know that he lied but I found out later that he is not a peace officer.”

Tritico pointed out that Gelagotis had fooled even those closest to him — his wife and family, and his co-workers.

“Knowing that, you can’t tell these ladies and gentlemen of the jury that what Gelagotis said [regarding Joslin being his boss] was true, can you?” Tritico asked.

“No, I can’t,” Gehab said.

The rice farmer said that Gelagotis also reneged on his offer to help him get hired by TDCJ.

“He said text me and I’ll help you,” Gehab said. “I never heard from him again.”

On the first day of trial on Monday, Gelagotis testified against Joslin for Prosecutor Mike Laird. Gelagotis proved to be a challenging witness for the prosecution with his four felony convictions – two for impersonating a peace officer, one for possession of body armor and one for unlawfully carrying a concealed handgun.

During his closing statement, Tritico challenged Gelagotis as a credible witness, asking the jury how they could be expected to believe Gelagotis could tell the truth when so much of his life had been based on lies.

“He lied to everyone he came across. He lied to his family. He lied to his wife,” Tritico said. “That’s how he got by in life. That’s what the state is resting its entire case on.”

The presumption of innocence alone was enough to not convict, he said.

“There is not enough to put on the career of a 25-year lawman,” Tritico said.

During the closing statement for the prosecution, Laird questioned why a bulletproof vest bearing the name of Liberty County was found in Gelagotis’s house when a search warrant was executed. He also pointed to an ID card that Joslin had created for Gelagotis that identified him as an employee of the constable’s office and an incident at a Houston Rockets game where Gelagotis, acting as an honorary or reserve deputy, had appeared alongside Joslin during a tribute to peace officers. Gelagotis was wearing a badge and gun during the tribute, which was recorded and shared online.

Laird suggested that Joslin hoped to manipulate the jury by coming to court every day in his constable’s uniform.

“He wore his uniform for you. He wanted to say, ‘Look at me. I’m a law enforcement officer. Don’t ruin my life,'” Laird said.

At around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the jury began to deliberate. With so little time left in the day and no clerk available to accept a verdict even if they had decided upon one, they broke for the evening and returned Wednesday morning. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, after hours of deliberation, the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and the mistrial was announced.

The prosecution could choose to retry the case or not pursue any additional legal action against Joslin. Bluebonnet News called Laird’s office Wednesday afternoon for comment but was unable to reach him by phone due to the late hour. A call was also made to Tritico, but there has been no response at this time.

By Vanesa Brashier,

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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