‘Shows a very low intelligence level’: Former BCSO lieutenant slams sheriff after getting $395,000 settlement

SAN ANTONIO – A former Bexar County Sheriff’s lieutenant who received a $395,000 settlement from the county this spring told KSAT that Sheriff Javier Salazar attempted to smear her name after she posted photos and videos of herself near the U.S. Capitol building during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

“It just shows a very low intelligence level on his part. And I’m not saying that to be ugly. I’m saying that because it’s the truth,” said Roxanne Mathai in her first public comments to KSAT.

Mathai had traveled to Washington, D.C., to see then-President Donald Trump give a speech at a rally.

She was then among the thousands of people who walked from the Ellipse to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

Mathai, dressed in red, white and blue superhero attire, posted pictures and videos of herself on Facebook near the Capitol as a protest erupted into a deadly riot.

In one clip, Mathai recorded herself saying, “We’re going in.”

Then-BCSO Lieutenant Roxanne Mathai recorded video of herself outside the Capitol on January 6, 2021. (KSAT)

“I felt the need to actually disclose that when I said ‘we’re going in,’ because I meant closer to the crowd. I wanted to see things,” Mathai told KSAT.

Mathai contends she was unaware of the full-scale mayhem that took place in front of her, was hundreds of feet away from the rioters and that she arrived at the lawn of the Capitol long after a majority of the crowd did.

She said after Trump’s speech she stopped to use the restroom and walked with a friend who frequently paused to take photographs.

“I would definitely do it again because I never did anything wrong. I never did anything illegal. So why wouldn’t I do it again?” Mathai said.

Attorney: Salazar’s comments created serious liability for the county

A day after the riot, Salazar gave a virtual interview in which he condemned Mathai and said he intended for her to never set foot inside the Bexar County Jail again.

Mathai, who had worked as a detention supervisor, was terminated months later for rules violations, including conduct unbecoming an officer and for failing to report crimes.

She appealed her firing to a third-party arbitrator, who in late 2021 upheld her termination.

During an appearance at Mathai’s arbitration months earlier, Salazar testified that people at the Capitol were actively trying to hunt down and lynch members of congress.

Attorney Mark Anthony Sanchez, who took on the case and eventually filed a federal lawsuit against the county and Salazar in late 2022, said Salazar’s testimony continued a pattern of him causing legal liability regarding Mathai’s termination.

“When I reviewed the case I got the sense that there was some serious liability the county was facing,” Sanchez said.

The suit alleged retaliatory discharge and asserted that the county violated Mathai’s constitutional rights, including her rights to free speech.

Attorney Mark Anthony Sanchez and his client Roxanne Mathai speak with KSAT Investigates. (KSAT)

Sanchez said Salazar’s testimony during a deposition for the case in late November further exposed the county to liability.

During one back-and-forth between Sanchez and Salazar, Sanchez asked the sheriff if he believed Mathai was a terrorist.

“I believe it — that the insurrection itself was a terrorist act and she was there in support of it,” Salazar testified.

Asked again by Sanchez if Salazar believed Mathai was a terrorist, the sheriff answered, “Yes,” deposition records show.

“I would love for him to sit across from me at a table and please tell me how I am a terrorist,” Mathai said.

“He has no sense, no clue about how to respect the First Amendment Rights of employees who are on their own time and participating in political activities for their own personal positions and values,” Sanchez said.

Sheriff Javier Salazar testified in late November that he believed Roxanne Mathai was a terrorist. (KSAT)

A settlement order in Mathai’s suit against Bexar County and Salazar was entered into the record April 23, federal court records show.

Salazar, through a spokesman, declined a request from KSAT to be interviewed for this story.

The spokesman referred to a previous statement from Salazar released earlier this year after the county agreed to the $395,000 settlement.

“The termination in this case was done within policy and was upheld by an arbitrator. The decision to issue a settlement was made outside the BCSO. There was no wrongdoing on the part of the administration, and I stand by our actions,” Salazar stated April 26.

More than 1,400 people have faced criminal charges in connection to the riot, according to updated figures from the US Department of Justice.

Mathai was not criminally charged and never formally accused by a law enforcement agency of criminal wrongdoing.

A state administrative judge in August 2022 amended Mathai’s BCSO discharge from “dishonorable” to “general.”

Mathai said she is currently working toward obtaining her peace officer’s license and plans to run for sheriff against Salazar in four years, if he is reelected in November.

As part of her settlement, Mathai is eligible to reapply to work for BCSO, Sanchez confirmed to KSAT.

“I had to open my eyes and see what was going on and see that I deserve better and I can do better,” Mathai said.

“Roxanne is a patriot and her case serves as a beacon of light, a beacon of hope, that in our constitutional republic we will respect the rights of people to think freely and to associate freely and essentially protect viewpoint diversity,” Sanchez said.

Assistant district attorney who handled case for county terminated days after settlement was acknowledged publicly

Days after the county acknowledged the settlement with Mathai publicly, the assistant district attorney who handled the case, Susan Bowen, was terminated from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Bowen, who had worked for the DA’s office since 1991, was informed May 9 that her employment was being terminated effective immediately, her personnel file shows.

Bowen had been promoted within the DA’s office as recently as late October, her personnel file shows.

DA officials declined to discuss the reasons for Bowen’s termination and whether her dismissal was related to her handling of the Mathai suit, calling it a “personnel matter.”

“There are certain things that the media doesn’t have a right to know and there’s certain things that at some point the public will have the right to know,” Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales told KSAT.

He said “there may be some litigation” at some point in the future regarding Bowen’s dismissal and that it would be improper for him to discuss her employment with the agency.

Bowen did not respond to a phone call seeking comment for this story.

KSAT could find no record that she was accused of any professional misconduct.

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

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