By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Prosecutors dropped a perjury charge on Wednesday against a former Texas state trooper who arrested a black motorist later found hanged in her jail cell, a court document provided by the attorney for the ex-trooper showed.
The 2015 traffic stop by former trooper Brian Encinia that resulted in the hanging death three days later of Sandra Bland, 28, was one in a series of incidents that raised questions of racial bias in U.S. policing.
Encinia was charged by a grand jury in January 2016 with making a false statement on his arrest report for Bland. The charge carried a penalty of up to one year in jail.
The prosecution’s motion to dismiss, filed in state court in Waller County, said that Encinia agreed to surrender his law enforcement license and “will not pursue or engage in employment, in any capacity, with law enforcement.”
Encinia’s attorney Chip Lewis said a judge agreed to the motion.
“Brian and his family appreciate the thoughtful review by the prosecutors. Dismissal was the right thing to do,” Lewis said in a statement.
Last year, Bland’s family reached a $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit they filed against law enforcement.
Family lawyer Cannon Lambert said on Wednesday he was disappointed that prosecutors decided not to see the case through.
“When you have evidence that an officer lies about what happened out in the field in a police report, and it is caught on tape that he is lying, you have to prosecute to ensure the community they are going to get a fair shake,” he said in a telephone interview.
Bland was found dead in her cell with a trash bag around her neck. Authorities said she committed suicide.
Critics said race was a factor in her being pulled over by Encinia for failing to signal a lane change in Waller County, about 50 miles northwest of Houston, and for her arrest on a charge of assaulting an officer. They said the trooper increased tensions on the scene.
The Texas Department of Public Safety faulted Encinia for his conduct during the stop and later fired him. A dashcam video showed him shouting at Bland and failing to answer her when she asked repeatedly why she was being arrested.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Grant McCool)