Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Former Trooper Encinia pleads not guilty in Sandra Bland perjury case

As expected.

Sandra Bland

A former Texas trooper pleaded not guilty to charges he lied about his actions last July while arresting Sandra Bland, whose death in Waller County’s jail three days later sparked a national outcry from civil rights activists.

Dressed in a gray suit and tie and flanked by his attorneys, former Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian T. Encinia said little Tuesday afternoon during a minutes-long arraignment hearing before State District Judge Albert M. McCaig Jr.

[…]

In an arrest affidavit, Encinia said he had ordered Bland out of the car to safely continue the investigation.

A Waller County grand jury indicted Encinia in January of misdemeanor perjury based on that statement, according to a special prosecutor in the case. If convicted, Encinia could spend up to a year in jail and have to pay a $4,000 fine.

Earlier this month, DPS Director Steve McCraw formally fired Encinia, saying he violated the department’s courtesy policy and procedures. Encinia is appealing the termination to the Texas Public Safety Commission. Separately, the trooper is named in a wide-ranging civil lawsuit filed by Bland’s family that alleges negligence and wrongful death. Attorneys representing Encinia in that case have asked – unsuccessfully – that it be delayed while his criminal trial plays out. The civil trial is set to begin next January.

Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and older sister, Shante Needham, both appeared at the arraignment, along with their lawyer, Cannon Lambert.

“To come all this way, I needed to do it,” said Bland’s mother after the hearing, as she embraced those who’d gathered in support of her and her family.

“I’m hopeful things go in the direction that [Encinia] eventually gets detained and he can remain there for the maximum amount of time that perjury carries,” Needham said. “At the end of the day, my sister, my mother’s daughter, is no longer here anymore. He needs to be held accountable for his actions.”

See here and here for the background. The Trib quotes Encinia’s defense attorney blaming his indictment on a “runaway” grand jury. I dunno, I thought that video of the traffic stop made it quite clear that at the very least, Encinia was unprofessional and antagonistic. We can argue if his behavior qualifies as perjury, but let’s see what happens in the courtroom first. And let’s not overlook the fact, as Grits notes, a law enforcement officer being called to account at all like this is quite unusual. A conviction, if it comes to that, would be even more so. The Press has more.

Related Posts:

3 Comments

  1. Steve Houston says:

    I still maintain that whatever level of antagonism or unprofessional behavior the trooper displayed, neither are against the law and neither were the proximate cause of her demise. As she grew increasingly argumentative, he removed her from the car and off camera where is sounds like they scuffled when she is said to have kicked him. He might not be the sharpest tool in the shed and I’m sure there were better ways to handle the entire encounter but perjury?!? It just sounds like a political stunt, the same as not delaying the civil trial until this is finished (Paul Kennedy, noted for his antagonistic stances toward police in general, writes how problematic having the civil trial scheduled first could be damaging to Encinia’s rights in the criminal trial).

  2. Jules says:

    I think the perjury was from his signed statement of what happened, not what happened.

  3. Steve Houston says:

    Jules, those statements are not designed to be detailed and complete, merely an overview of what happened. As such, I think it’s a big stretch to indict a trooper as indicated, especially if the statute makes perjury a felony but they lower it to a misdemeanor. I was hoping one of the legal eagles might jump in to explain but as in previous articles, they remain silent. We’ll see what happens in the fullness of time but Kennedy seems to have a valid point regarding Constitutional issues of the two trials to be held so close together.