TAMPA — Eric Houston, the recently fired Tampa police detective who is the target of a mysterious federal investigation, is trying to get his job back.
In a grievance filed with the city, Houston asks to be reinstated as a homicide detective and for back pay and reimbursement for the benefits he lost when he was fired April 24.
The decision was “arbitrary, capricious, excessive and not progressive in nature,” according to the grievance, which was filed May 9. The complaint also said Houston was not given any information about the charges against him before he was fired by Police Chief Jane Castor.
Houston maintains his innocence and said he did nothing wrong, said Owen Kohler, attorney for the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, who filed the grievance on Houston’s behalf. The next step in the appeals process will be a hearing with the department in the next few days, Kohler said.
The details of the federal grand jury investigation into Houston’s actions have not yet been released, and the state attorney’s office said this week that the probe likely will last through Labor Day.
Houston, a 24-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department, was placed on paid administrative leave on April 3, when the department learned about the federal investigation. Castor fired him three weeks later after she was briefed on the nature of the review.
During a press conference held the day Houston was fired, Castor said his “alleged criminal behavior is so egregious” it was necessary to take the step immediately.
Houston was a crime-scene investigator who specialized in cold cases. Before his termination, he made about $86,000 a year.
Police and prosecutors are reviewing 19 cases in which Houston was an investigator. The list includes high-profile cases such as convicted cop-killer Dontae Morris and Julie Schenecker, who is on trial this week for killing her two teenage children.
The defense attorneys in some of the cases involving Houston have been asking for delays until they find out what the allegations are against the detective.
A judge will decide by the end of this week whether to delay the sentencing of Morris, who could face the death penalty for killing police officers Dave Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab in 2010. Morris’ defense attorney said Houston’s testimony played a significant role in the case against his client.
In October, Houston’s wife, Tampa police sergeant La Joyce Houston, was fired and arrested on two counts of welfare fraud and one count of grand theft. La Joyce Houston used a food stamp card belonging to an inmate at the Hillsborough County jail — the biological mother of the Houstons’ adopted daughter — and lent the card to a relative to use, investigators said.
At the time of his wife’s arrest, it appeared Eric Houston wasn’t aware of the alleged criminal activity, Castor said.