The Courier by Brad Meyer - February 25, 2012
A traffic stop of the former Montgomery mayor has led to a controversial police report for allegedly driving under the influence, but no charges, and the termination of the officer who pulled him over. Travis Mabry, who resigned as the city’s mayor last year, said there is nothing to the incident, he was not driving drunk and the investigation is retaliation by city officials. However, a city official said the goal of municipal officials is to ensure that no one receive preferential or discriminatory treatment in carrying out the duties of city business. Sgt. Robert Bodden pulled over Mabry shortly before midnight Nov. 11, 2011, because the vehicle was “being driven erratically by weaving from one side of a lane of traffic to the other side,” according to the police report. However, Bodden did not conduct a field sobriety test, issue a citation or file a police report that night, and allowed Mabry to drive home. The city terminated Bodden for not obtaining any evidence at the scene or filing a report. “Standard procedure would be to conduct a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test,” Police Chief Royce Goodson said. “Officer Bodden made a serious mistake in judgment.” The report was filed around two weeks later by Goodson after the chief conducted his own investigation, City Administrator Bill Kotlan said.
Mabry was driving the pickup truck involved in the traffic stop and “appeared to be extremely intoxicated,” Goodson, who reviewed the police vehicle’s video of the incident, wrote in the police report. Mabry refutes the allegation of driving under the influence of alcohol. He claims the top came off of a cup of coffee and he swerved the vehicle when hot liquid spilled on his leg. He claims Bodden released him to drive home after making the stop. Goodson, however, said Bodden told several local residents he had stopped the former mayor for driving under the influence and the stories had gotten back to the chief. He said he then conducted an internal investigation into the matter then wrote the report. The video of the incident and police report were sent to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges would be filed against Mabry. However, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam, chief of the DA’s Office Vehicular Crimes Division, said no charges will be filed against Mabry. “After reviewing the matter, there was insufficient evidence to file charges,” Diepraam said. “The video shows a traffic stop, but there is no evidence regarding alcohol.” The case is not closed, Diepraam said, because the DA’s Office has up to two years to file charges in the event new evidence becomes available. Mabry dismissed the entire incident – including the referral of the video to the DA’s Office – as retaliation by his successor and Kotlan. Kotlan disagreed. “The case and related materials were turned over to the DA’s Office so that an objective party could review the situation and make a determination about what, if anything, should be done,” Kotlan said. He said the DA has made a determination and he is satisfied that the matter has been resolved. But the issue concerning Bodden’s termination is not resolved. Kotlan said the city is working on a settlement agreement with the officer that would allow him to be reinstated and resign his position – and that his separation from employment with the city is “related to the incident.” Bodden did not want to discuss the issue. “I lost my job over this,” he said. “I’m putting this behind me and moving on. I’ve got nothing to say.” The Courier filed a Freedom of Information request with the city of Montgomery for a copy of the video of the traffic stop. City Attorney Bryan Fowler sent the request to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on whether the tape should be released. Because a settlement agreement is in the works with Bodden and the possibility of litigation between the officer and the city remains a possibility, Fowler is requesting the state grant the city’s request to withhold the video recording of the incident from the public. Goodson said Bodden’s failure to conduct a field sobriety test of a suspected drunk driver or to secure a breathalyzer or blood test was a violation of standard departmental policy and procedures, but the action – or lack of action – is not a crime. “Police officers have discretion and latitude in their investigation process,” Diepraam said. “There are no plans to charge Bodden or Mabry with a crime.”