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Manuel Mata’s unlawful arrest on Friday highlights how local judges can violate civil and human rights with impunity. Courtesy YouTube

The sentencing hearing left reporters speechless. Following the testimony of former cop Aaron Dean’s mother, whose son was recently found guilty of manslaughter in the 2019 fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, defense attorney Miles Brissette said something peculiar to Judge George Gallagher. 

“Your honor, I believe Mr. Mata has graced us with his presence,” said Brissette, referring to Manual Mata, a citizen journalist known for confronting corrupt public officials.

Mata approached the railing that separates spectators from the courtroom.   

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“I don’t know what is going on,” Mata said before telling Gallagher that he declined to be sworn in because he did not know why he was being called in as a witness. 

Seconds later, three sheriff’s deputies grabbed Mata and forced him out of the courtroom. 

“This judge is allowing this case to turn into a clown show,” one WFAA reporter said following the incident. Judge Gallagher “is arresting citizens in the courtroom just for being there.” 

To many who remain mistrustful of a Tarrant County criminal justice system rampant with corruption and insider dealings, the arrest appeared orchestrated and possibly a ruse for aiding Dean’s eventual appeal. Significant court irregularities could be grounds for a successful appeal by a defense team. Mata’s unlawful arrest — which has already prompted complaints with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and calls for Gallagher to be sanctioned — could be viewed as a favor to Dean’s team. 

One YouTube viewer put it simply. 

“This arrest by the judge was clearly retaliatory,” said Jimmy Russell. Why didn’t Gallagher bring Mata “to the witness box like every other witness? Then the judge used [Mata’s] pending [criminal] bonds and cases against him for no judicial reason or lawful reason. Watch after he is arrested, and the defense attorney was smiling from ear to ear like it was a setup.”

Brissett and Gallagher have a history of working together to cover up public corruption. In 2018, Gallagher assigned Brissette as a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of misconduct in Haltom City. Then-city manager Keith Lane documented alleged violations of city ordinances, the Texas Open Meetings Act, and numerous government codes (“The Untouchables,” Jan 2021). Lane reported the incidents to the Texas Rangers and the Tarrant County district attorney’s office in May 2018. 

Lane believes Brissette was hired to bury the case and cover for allegedly corrupt public officials. Brissette did not respond to my requests for comment. 

“They want to see this investigation have a slow death,” Lane told me at the time.

Last year, Gallagher was publicly admonished for activating a stun cuff on a defendant’s ankle three times during a trial in 2016.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct ruled that “on appeal, the El Paso Court of Appeals overturned [the defendant’s] conviction and ordered a new trial, finding Judge Gallagher did not order the activation of the stun cuff for legitimate security purposes.” 

Gallagher was investigated by the United States Department of Justice but avoided criminal charges. 

In mid-2020, Gallagher assigned a disgraced outgoing Ellis County DA to investigate a sworn complaint I filed with the Tarrant County DA’s office alleging misconduct by Fort Worth police and the DA for meddling in my child custody case as a favor to a wealthy family. Through extensive research, I found out that Gallagher’s assignment was, like the Lane investigation, a ruse to cover for public misconduct. Gallagher has refused to accept responsibility for his assignments of bogus special prosecutors like Brissette. Friday’s arrest of Mata, who was recently the topic of a recent cover story (“Auditing Citizen’s Rights,” Nov 30), is part of a documented pattern of abuse of power by Gallagher. 

Speaking in November, Mata told me how corrupt county officials abuse the criminal justice system as a means of clinging to power.

“These people use three ways to fight people [like me] who are effective in exposing” public corruption, he said. “They will come after you criminally, they will take your kids, or they will try to prove that you are crazy. They will have a cop take you to John Peter Smith Hospital or find another family member to say [you are crazy]. They will criminalize parents for exposing a bad judge or lawyer. That’s how they will attack you.” 

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