A Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy who was fired for attending the January 6, 2021 rally in Washington, D.C. has received a $395,000 settlement from the county. 

Former Lieutenant Roxanne Mathai sued the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office for wrongful termination after she was fired for attending the January 6 rally. 

“I am grateful for the unwavering support of my attorney … and the countless individuals who stood by me throughout this challenging ordeal,” Mathai said in a statement after the settlement was reached. “This settlement not only provides closure for me personally but also sends a powerful message that wrongful termination will not be tolerated.”

Despite the county paying Mathai for her termination, Monica Ramos, a spokeswoman for Bexar County, told The Epoch Times that the county denies any wrongdoing. 

“Bexar County continues to deny that any acts of discrimination or retaliation occurred,” said Ramos. “Nothing about the insurer’s decision to settle both claims can be construed as an admission of any wrongdoing or liability by Bexar County, which is expressly denied.”

According to Mathai, she had posted photos online from the rally for former President Donald Trump. She says the images were taken before anyone had entered the U.S. Capitol. 

The following day, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar was made aware of the posts and said he intended to ensure Mathai never entered a sheriff’s office again. Salazar maintained that Mathai was allowed to exercise her First Amendment rights but should have left after crimes were committed. 

According to documents from The Epoch Times, the sheriff’s office discharged Mathai in June 2021 after they determined she failed to report crimes and engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer. 

However, Mathai said she left the rally around 3 p.m. and could not see any doors or windows from where she stood. She said she saw people climbing walls at the Capitol but believed it was not illegal. Mathai has not been charged for any crime related to the rally. 

An arbitrator supported Mathai’s termination, saying she “knew or should have known she was observing illegal activity (trespass, barricades down, people climbing walls and scaffolding); that tear gas in the area and later a curfew were signs of trouble; that her social media would disseminate her pictures, video and comments to the public; and, that as an officer with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office the last place she should be or remain or come back to was the scene of this so-called ‘rally.’”

In 2022, Mathai sued, saying the termination violated her constitutional rights. She claimed in the lawsuit she had received permission to attend the rally from a superior. 

Mathai said in the lawsuit that she recorded and photographed the rally because she believed she “was a witness to history” and wanted to “create a record for posterity.”

“Ms. Mathai proudly and unapologetically voiced and displayed her lawful and constitutionally protected support of President Trump in person and through social media,” read the lawsuit.

Bexar County officials attempted to have the case thrown out in 2023, but their motion was rejected by U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez, who ruled that Mathai did not waive her rights to bring a federal claim. 

In April, the Bexar County Commissioners Court approved a $100,000 payment to an insurance carrier to take over the defense in the case. According to the county, the insurer will cover the remainder of Mathai’s settlement.  

On May 7, Judge Rodriguez dismissed the case. 

Sheriff Salazar maintains that there was no wrongdoing in Mathai’s termination. 

“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,” Salazar told The Epoch Times. “There was no wrongdoing on the part of the administration, and I stand by our actions.”

Mathai told Texas Scorecard that she hopes her story will help others who face violations of their First Amendment rights. 

“For people like Sheriff Salazar and Joe Biden, they want to silence our freedom of speech only when it is speech that goes against their agenda or their own political beliefs. Free speech is a human right, and it’s a right to free speech without interference,” said Mathai. “Javier Salazar chose to interfere so I chose to protect my voice and my First Amendment right by fighting him in court.” 

“I hope this serves as a beacon of hope for others who have their rights violated by their employers,” she added. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.