Former Fort Worth police chief of staff gets two years of probation in DWI case

Former Fort Worth police chief of staff Paul Henderson at his trial in Weatherford.
Former Fort Worth police chief of staff Paul Henderson at his trial in Weatherford. Star-Telegram

A Parker County jury took less than 90 minutes to convict a former Fort Worth police chief of staff of driving while intoxicated.

County Court-at-Law Judge Jerry Buckner sentenced Daniel Paul Henderson to two years of probation.

The sentence was not harsh for the first-time DWI offender, said his lawyer, Jim Lane. Henderson can keep his driver’s license, must serve 80 hours of community service, must attend alcohol classes, cannot drink alcoholic beverages and cannot refuse a blood or breath test if he is asked by an officer to submit to them.

Henderson must also pay an $800 fine and $674 in court costs, the judge ordered. Henderson could have been sentenced to three to 180 days in jail and fined up to $2,000.

Lane said he plans to appeal.

Henderson, 48, was arrested early Dec. 1, 2012, after state Department of Public Safety Trooper Daniel Walker saw his car swerving on Interstate 30. Within a week of the arrest, Henderson was demoted to captain. Then-Police Chief Jeff Halstead fired him in May 2013.

Any attempt to appeal the decision to fire Henderson would depend on the outcome of the appeal in the criminal case, said Terry Porter, the attorney working on the firing case.

After the verdict was read, Henderson talked briefly to Walker outside the courtroom. Henderson said he thanked Walker for his service and told him to be careful as he pursued his duties. Henderson had no comment regarding his sentence or the jury’s verdict.

David Houston, one of the jurors, said the three men and three women who reached the guilty verdict all saw the case the same way.

“I think it was the weight of everything we heard and saw that led us to reach the guilty verdict,” Houston said. “We hope for the best for the defendant.”

Attorneys for both sides agreed that the three-year-old accusation against Henderson is not backed up by scientific evidence — no blood was drawn and no breath test given.

But prosecutors argued that they had something just as good: Walker’s statements and Henderson’s own admissions.

Lane had argued that Henderson didn’t have a chance.

“He had a big fish, a major, and he didn’t want to let him go,” he said of the trooper, during closing arguments. “He [the trooper] was an Intoxilyzer operator. But he said he didn’t want to give him a chance to negate the intoxication charge. But he was supposed to give him a chance.”

Lane also contended that the jury didn’t have all the facts available to make a fair decision.

Walker’s microphone lost its charge soon after Henderson’s arrest, so the jury either heard no audio or substandard audio with video recordings of the standard field sobriety tests issued just before Henderson’s arrest. Defense attorneys raised questions about whether the transcripts of the video provided to the jury were accurate.

Assistant Parker County Attorney Steve Bosser said in his closing arguments that the jury’s first duty was to protect the community from a man who — despite decades of law enforcement experience — endangered residents by driving his 2004 BMW while drunk.

Henderson told Walker that he drove erratically because he was texting his wife, Bosser said, suggesting Henderson should have texted his wife to drive him home.

Bosser also said Henderson lied to Walker, changing his story several times about how much he had to drink.

Bosser said the state proved Henderson was intoxicated by showing he had lost his normal physical and/or mental faculties.

The video of the arrest showed the Henderson having difficulty standing on the side of the road during the field sobriety tests as well as inconsistencies in statements that he made to Walker, Bosser said.

He told the jury, “You have to send a message and that message should be, ‘Don’t you dare drive intoxicated in Parker County.’ That would be a good message to send.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3