By DAVID MONTGOMERYJAN. 6, 2016
HEMPSTEAD, Tex. — The state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, the Chicago-area woman who three days later was found hanged in her cell at the Waller County jail, has been indicted on a perjury charge, a special prosecutor here said Wednesday.
Hours after the indictment was announced against the trooper, Brian T. Encinia, the Department of Public Safety said that the state police agency “will begin termination proceedings to discharge him.”
The charge against Trooper Encinia, a Class A misdemeanor, was announced at the end of a day of grand jury deliberations. It carries a possible penalty of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, prosecutors said.
The charge stemmed from a one-page affidavit that Trooper Encinia filed with jail officials justifying the arrest of Ms. Bland, who was pulled over July 10 in a routine traffic stop in Prairie View, northwest of Houston, for failing to use her turn signal. Ms. Bland, 28, who was black, was returning to Texas to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater.
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A video released by Texas officials confirms accounts of a physical confrontation between Ms. Bland and a state trooper. But her arrest and cause of death remain in dispute.
The trooper wrote that he removed Ms. Bland from her car to more safely conduct a 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 Ms. Bland refuses Trooper Encinia’s request to put out a cigarette. At one point, Trooper Encinia says he will forcibly remove Ms. Bland from her car and threatens her with a Taser, saying, “I will light you up.”
Larkin Eakin, Trooper Encinia’s lawyer, said he spoke to his client after the indictment was announced. “His reaction was he’s not guilty,” Mr. Eakin said. “When you’re not guilty, you don’t expect to be indicted.”
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The next step calls for a Waller County judge to issue a warrant, set bond and schedule an arraignment hearing. Mr. Eakin said Trooper Encinia remained on administrative duty and would appear for the arraignment when the date was set.
The question of criminal charges against Trooper Encinia was believed to be the last major issue facing the grand jury, which began its investigation in August, two special prosecutors, Darrell Jordan and Lewis White, told reporters outside the Waller County Courthouse earlier Wednesday. The grand jury had already declined to indict any of Ms. Bland’s jailers in connection with her death on July 13, effectively sustaining the medical examiner’sruling of suicide.
Ms. Bland’s family, which has filed a wrongful-death suit, has expressed frustration and disappointment with the grand jury, saying Waller County officials have failed to keep them informed about its progress. Cannon Lambert, the family’s lawyer, has called the case a “sham of a process.” The Waller County district attorney, Elton Mathis, appointed an independent panel of five lawyers, including Mr. Jordan and Mr. White, to oversee the investigation.
New York Police Sergeant to Face Internal Charges in Eric Garner Confrontation
By AL BAKERJAN. 8, 2016
A New York City police sergeant was served with departmental disciplinary charges on Friday for her role in the confrontation that led to the death of Eric Garner in 2014.
The sergeant, Kizzy Adonis, was one of two Police Department supervisors to initially respond to the scene of the encounter. The charges are the first official accusations of misconduct against any of the officers involved in the case.
Mr. Garner, 43, died after being grabbed from behind by one officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who threw an arm around Mr. Garner’s neck as he and several colleagues tried to arrest him on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes.
The death of Mr. Garner, which the Justice Department is investigating, illuminated the aggressive tactics employed by officersin New York when confronting people suspected of minor offenses. Agrand jury’s decision not to charge the officers involved fueled protests in the city and elsewhere and, along with several other police-involved deaths around the country, led to calls for criminal-justice reforms.
Mr. Garner, who was unarmed, died after repeatedly saying he was having difficulty breathing. Representatives of his family, civil rights lawyers and others, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, called for changes to the secretive grand jury process.
The Police Department had said that it was waiting for the results of the federal investigation before proceeding with its own actions with regard to Mr. Garner’s death. But police officials were forced to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Sergeant Adonis because of an 18-month statute of limitations dictated by the state’s Civil Service law, said Stephen Davis, the department’s chief spokesman. Mr. Davis said the department had filed the internal charges after consulting with the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York.
The statute does not apply to Officer Pantaleo, Mr. Davis said, because federal authorities were reviewing his conduct and a “criminal aspect exception applies.” The department has completed its internal inquiry into Officer Pantaleo, he said.
Sergeant Adonis, 38, joined the Police Department in 2002. She was assigned to the 120th Precinct on the North Shore of Staten Island at the time of the confrontation with Mr. Garner, on July 17, 2014, in the Tompkinsville neighborhood. She had been promoted to sergeant less than a month earlier, on June 25. Her yearlong probation was extended by six months last year.
On Friday, she was placed on modified duty, stripped of her gun and badge, and barred from doing street enforcement, Mr. Davis said.
Portions of the officers’ encounter with Mr. Garner were caught on video. That footage showed Sergeant Adonis entering the frame as Officer Pantaleo and his colleagues pressed Mr. Garner onto the sidewalk after taking him to the ground. A second sergeant, Dhanan Saminath, arrived, though it is not clear when. He was the anticrime team supervisor.
The encounter occurred on Bay Street, outside Bay Beauty Supply. The store manager said he heard the female sergeant say to the officers, “Let up, you got him already.” An officer looked up but did not let go, the manager said.
At a news conference on Friday, Sergeant Adonis stood silently with Edward D. Mullins, the head of the sergeants’ union, as he criticized Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, calling the charges “political pandering” at the expense of an officer with an “unblemished record.”
In an interview earlier in the day, Mr. Mullins said: “Commissioner Bratton bears the full responsibility for what occurred on Staten Island in the Garner case. He was the commissioner in charge of a policy, a failed policy, that should never have been. And that policy being the enforcement of untaxed cigarettes. And if anyone should be put on modified assignment, it should be him.”
Mr. Mullins said the charges against Sergeant Adonis were four counts of “failure to supervise” the situation.
“We don’t hear about the duty captain,” added Mr. Mullins, who said Sergeant Adonis was assigned to be at a meeting, not on patrol, and responded at her own initiative, at the time of the confrontation. “We don’t hear about a borough commander, a zone commander.”
As a practical matter, the internal case against Sergeant Adonis will be delayed until the federal inquiry is complete. While the deadline for filing internal charges against other officers has not passed, Mr. Davis said that none beyond Sergeant Adonis were “subject to department charges in connection with this at this point.”
Ultimately, a departmental judge will make a recommendation to Mr. Bratton about how to address the sergeant’s actions. Punishment could involve termination. As commissioner, Mr. Bratton is the final arbiter.
In November, the state’s highest court declined to order the release of transcripts from the grand jury that considered evidence in the death of Mr. Garner.
Christopher T. Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that sought the transcripts, questioned why the federal inquiry was still open. The matter, he said, is “not a tough call under the federal statute.”
“This is fine and good, but the much bigger issue is what is happening with Officer Pantaleo,” he said. “There is ample basis for a federal prosecution, and we see no reason why the Justice Department needs more time to decide whether to proceed.”
The Justice Department opened its investigation in December 2014, and it is not unusual for such inquiries to stretch past a year. Federal law enforcement officials in New York and Washington said the investigation remained active.