Officer accused of perjury in Sandra Bland case pleads not guilty
HOUSTON – Former Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia entered a not guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of perjury Tuesday in Waller County.
A grand jury indicted Encinia in January, saying that he lied about what led to Bland getting out of her car during the July traffic stop.
"What Mr. Encinia did on (the) date of Ms. Bland's arrest from the moment he encountered her to (the) moment he finished filing his charges was proper and is in no way (a) violation of any law of state of Texas," said Encinia's defense attorney Chip B. Lewis.
In his incident report, Encinia wrote he had her exit her vehicle to conduct a safer traffic investigation.
Dashcam video shows Encinia opening Bland's car door, reaching in for her and threatening her with a stun gun.
Jailers found Bland dead in a Waller County jail cell three days later. Her death was ruled a suicide.
Bland's family flew in from Chicago to attend the proceeding. It was the first time they had seen Encinia in person.
"What happened in the courtroom was supposed to happen today. I'm trusting God with it and that's what I mean. That's where I'm standing. That's where I'm staying," said Geneva Veal-Reed, Bland's mother.
Protesters gathered at the Waller County Courthouse as well Tuesday, repeating demands for answers to questions about Bland's death.
At one point, a group surrounded and shouted "tell the truth" at Waller County Sheriff Glenn as he conducted interviews with news media.
Encinia is fighting to get his job back and is also named in a federal wrongful death lawsuit brought by Bland's family.
If convicted of misdemeanor perjury, he faces up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. His next court date is in May.