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Gag Order Sought in Sandra Bland Case

HOUSTON, Texas — The lawyers who are defending Waller County and the State of Texas in a lawsuit brought by Sandra’s Bland’s mother are seeking a gag order in the case. One of the lawyers for Bland’s estate and Bland’s mother has been quoted repeatedly in the Houston Chronicle in recent days.

Breitbart Texas contacted Houston lawyer Larry. J. Simmons who said, “We are seeking a gag order so it would be inconsistent to make much of it. We are just trying to honor the court’s directive to not try the case in the press.” Simmons said that while there is no signed written gag order in the litigation, the judge admonished the parties and the lawyers at the initial case management conference to not try the case in the press.

The legal document obtained by Breitbart Texas states that “on July 21, 2016, the Houston Chronicle published a front page article which unequivocally suggests that Plaintiffs’ counsel has selectively disclosed to the media small portions of discovery in this lawsuit, including very limited excerpts from dozens of hours of deposition testimony in the case. As the title and the content of the Chronicle article make clear, opposing counsel was the source of the selectively chosen portions of the recent deposition testimony shared with the media.”

The motion for protective order requests that the Court “formalize its directive to not try the case in the media.” Defense counsel seeks a protective order sealing deposition testimony, prohibiting the parties, lawyers, witnesses, and potential witnesses from divulging any discovery materials or deposition testimony to the media or other third parties; and prohibiting the parties, lawyers, witnesses, and potential witnesses from providing extrajudicial statements or interviews about this litigation (other than on matters of public record).”

The mother of Sandra Bland filed the federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of herself and Bland’s estate soon after Bland’s death in the Waller County jail.

Bland committed suicide in the Waller County jail after being arrested by a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper for a traffic violation and assaulting a police officer.

The lawsuit was filed in a Houston federal court on August 4, 2015, according to court documents obtained by Breitbart Texas. The lawsuit was filed by Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal from Naperville, Illinois.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit were: Brian Encinia, a trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety, individually and as an agent and/or employee of DPS; the Texas Department of Public Safety; Elsa Magnus, individually and as an agent and/or employee of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office; Oscar Prudente, individually and as an agent and/or employee of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office; and Waller County. Magnus and Prudente were screening officers at the Waller County jail and employed by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office.

Breitbart Texas previously reported that Trooper Encinia stopped Bland after she ran a stop sign in front of him and then changed lanes without signaling as his vehicle approached hers. He told her the reason for the stop was the improper lane change and said he was about to give her a warning ticket, according to the dashcam video released by the Texas DPS. The situation escalated after Bland refused to put out a cigarette per the officer’s instructions.

“We are looking for Waller County and the individuals involved to take accountability,” said attorney Cannon Lambert Sr., in a press conference reported by USA Today after the lawsuit was filed. Lambert is the family’s attorney in Illinois.

The federal complaint asserts a federal civil rights claim, assault and battery, wrongful death and survival actions, and vicarious liability for Officer Encinia’s alleged “willful and wanton” conduct, among other claims. The complaint urges that on or about July 10, 2015, Brian Encinia threatened Bland with bodily injury by pointing a Taser at her and saying, “I’ll light you up.” It also urges that he used force and/or threatened force in order to remove her from her vehicle, placed handcuffs on her and wrestled her to the ground, slammed her head to the ground, and kneeled on her body. The August 4th federal complaint asserts that “On or about July 10, 201, Brian Encinia falsified an allegation of assault on a public servant against Sandra Bland for purposes for taking her into custody.”

As reported by Breitbart Texas, DPS Trooper Encinia was indicted on a misdemeanor perjury charge, a Class A misdemeanor. Darrell Jordan, one of the five racially-diverse special prosecutors appointed to oversee the investigation into Bland’s death told Breitbart Texas, the grand jury did not believe Encinia’s statement in the probable cause affidavit where he said, “I had Bland exit the vehicle to further conduct a safe traffic investigation.” The grand jury was also racially diverse, as reported by Breitbart Texas.

The grand jury reported in December that no indictments would be handed down against Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith or his staff.

The Waller County jail had a duty “to keep Ms. Bland safe and free from physical injury, harm, or death,” continues the allegations in the complaint. Moreover, it alleges that jail personnel was also “required to screen and evaluate Sandra Bland on an ongoing basis.”  It asserts that Waller County was also required to train its jail personnel on the method and means of evaluating persons placed in custody to keep them safe from physical or psychological injury, harm, or death, and were required to screen and evaluate the mental status of persons placed in custody.

The lawsuit states, Ms. Bland was “found in her cell with a ligature made of a garbage bag around her neck.”

The federal civil rights claim against Officer Encinia states that he was acting under color of law, and intentionally, willfully, wantonly, and unreasonably deprived Bland of her civil rights, privileges, and immunities under the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights law.

Bland’s mother asserts that the officer had been reprimanded for unprofessional conduct and that DPS “knew or should have known that Defendant Brian Encinia exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.” It is also alleged that his behavior demonstrated a deliberate indifference and conscious disregard for the constitutional rights and safety of Ms. Bland.

In the federal complaint filed in the case, no mention was made by the family about Sandra Bland’s personal responsibility in disobeying an order from a police officer and her alleged assault of the trooper. Nor did they explain why the family did not assist Ms. Bland with posting bond. She was in jail three days prior to her suicide.

Inquiries by Breitbart Texas to the attorneys of Geneva Reed-Veal have not been returned as of the time of publication of this article.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.

Motion for Protective Order Sandra Bland Case by lanashadwick on Scribd

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