Cop Who Arrested Sandra Bland Cleared on Perjury

HOUSTON (CN) – The legal troubles of the former Texas state trooper vilified for his arrest of Sandra Bland came to an anticlimactic end this week, as prosecutors dropped a perjury charge stemming from statements he made in Bland’s arrest report.

Brian Encinia cut a deal with prosecutors who agreed to drop the charges in return for him giving up his police credentials and signing a statement agreeing not to seek employment as a police officer ever again, local media reported.

State District Judge Albert McCaig Jr. approved the deal and dismissed the charge Wednesday.

Even without the deal, the prospect of Encinia returning to police work was unlikely.

He got death threats and was placed under police protection after dashcam footage of his July 10, 2015 traffic stop of Bland for failing to signal a lane change was viewed millions of times online.

The video shows Encinia threatening to shoot Bland with a stun-gun for questioning why he pulled her over, then yanking her from her car.

Waller County jailers found Bland dead in her cell three days later. Bland, 28, hanged herself with a plastic bag.

Bland’s death and the traffic-stop video added another chapter to the narrative put forth by Black Lives Matter and other civil rights advocates that white police in the United States rarely face consequences for mistreating and killing black people in the line of duty.

But the fallout from Bland’s death came quickly for Encinia.

Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, sued Encinia in federal court for wrongful death in August 2015.

A Waller County grand jury indicted Encinia in January 2016 on claims he lied in an arrest report that he had ordered Bland to get out of her car “to further conduct a safe traffic investigation,” but he actually did so “because he was angry that she would not put out her cigarette.”

The indictment led his employer, the Texas Department of Public Safety, to fire him two months later.

Phoebe Smith, a private attorney Waller County hired to prosecute the case, told the Houston Chronicle she didn’t want to risk the chance a jury would acquit Encinia of the perjury charge, a Class A misdemeanor that carried a possible sentence of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

“We dismissed it based on the fact that he permanently surrendered his license. The bottom line is, we never wanted him to be a police officer again and we wanted to ensure that outcome. When you take a case in front of a jury there’s always that risk,” she told the Chronicle.

Waller County and Texas agreed in September to pay Reed-Veal $1.9 million to settle her lawsuit.

Bland’s death also led state lawmakers to pass the Sandra Bland Act, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in June.

The law requires police to try to divert non-violent misdemeanor arrestees suffering from a mental-health crisis or drug-abuse problems away from jail to treatment centers. It also calls for county jails to provide inmates with 24-7 access to mental-health counselors and makes it easier for mentally ill and intellectually disabled people to get out of jail quickly with personal bonds.

The Sandra Bland Act also mandates that Texas peace officers get at least 40 hours of crisis intervention and de-escalation training.

It takes effect Sept. 1.

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