The charge against Brian T. Encinia is a Class A misdemeanor and was announced Wednesday at the end of a day of grand jury deliberations. The charge carries a possible penalty of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, prosecutors said.I bet you could do a word search in affidavits by DPS troopers on the phrase "safe traffic investigation," go look at the videos from those stops, and discover that that phrase covers all sorts of situations where troopers crossed the line or punished drivers for "contempt of cop." In the past, a law enforcement official fudging facts or using weasel words in affidavits would never be second guessed, not even by a judge or a supervisor, much less a grand jury. I'm sure Encina never thought in a million years he'd be nailed for such a statement. Sure, it's false. But until now, it's been extremely rare for cops to be indicted on perjury charges, even if their accounts strayed much farther from reality than that.
The charge stemmed from a one-page affidavit that Encinia filed with jail officials justifying Bland’s arrest. She was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for failing to use her turn signal. Bland, 28, who was black, was returning to Texas in July to take a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
Encinia wrote that he removed Bland from her car to conduct a safe traffic investigation, but “the grand jury found that statement to be false,” a special prosecutor, Shawn McDonald, said.
A police dashboard camera video of the episode shows an escalating confrontation after Bland refuses Encinia’s request to put out a cigarette. At one point, Encinia says he will forcibly remove her from her car and threatens Bland with a Taser, saying, “I will light you up.”
Grits wonders: Will this be a one-off because of all the publicity around the case, similar to former DPS "Outstanding Lawman of the Year" Tom Coleman's perjury conviction in the Tulia cases? Or will this set a precedent so that other cops in the future might be called to account for perjuring themselves in official documents? I think of the way Ken Anderson's disbarment and brief incarceration over the Michael Morton case has left the state bar (barely) more open to disciplining prosecutors for withholding exculpatory evidence. Will other troopers and cops using the same fig leaf to cover up misconduct similarly be held to account? For the most part, the answer is clearly "no." But perhaps we'll see more such cases if other jurisdictions follow this grand jury's example.