State Trooper Brian Encinia, indicted Wednesday on a perjury charge related to his arrest of a black motorist near the Prairie View A&M University campus in July, surrendered to Texas Rangers Thursday afternoon.
He was taken to the Waller County Jail where he was booked and released after posting bond, Waller County authorities said.
Encinia plans to plead not guilty to the perjury charge, according to his attorney. The maximum sentence for the class A misdemeanor is a year in the Waller County Jail and a $4,000 fine.
State District Judge Judge Albert M. McCaig Jr. signed an arrest warrant for Encinia Thursday morning, the Waller County Clerk confirmed.
Bland’s arrest and subsequent death drew national attention, in part because of the video of the traffic stop recorded by a camera inside Encinia’s patrol car. In the video, Encinia can be seen opening Bland’s driver’s side door and reaching in for her. She refused to come out, and the trooper threatened to use a Taser on her.
But in Encinia’s report, he wrote: “I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation.” Special prosecutor Darrell Jordan said that was the statement grand jurors keyed in on.
Encinia’s attorney Larkin Eakin Jr. told The Texas Tribune that the trooper will plead not guilty.
“They’re going to have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those words used were intended to deceive, and honestly, he does not feel, nor do I, that they are deceptive,” Eakin said. “I mean, it was for officer safety. One types up a probable cause statement right after you deliver the prisoner to the jailhouse, and you don’t go into as much detail as you go into when you do your formal statement or testify even.
“No expert that I’ve ever had ever went exactly by his report. And no officer or defense witness ever testifies exactly as they’ve written down. They’re going to have to show that he intended to commit perjury, and I don’t think they can do that with a fair jury.”
“It was a tragedy, that Ms. Bland is deceased, a genuine tragedy,” Eakin said before pausing, “but we have to focus on what we have now.”
DPS said in a statement Wednesday night that it will fire Encinia.
DPS Director Steve McCraw has said Encinia violated several protocols when engaging Bland, but the agency and the trooper’s attorney say they are immune to a federal lawsuit filed by Bland’s family under the 11th Amendment, which broadly protects states and their institutions from being sued by individuals in federal courts.