Embattled Houston Police Chief C.O. "BAMF" Bradford goes on trial starting Tuesday for perjury. The charge stems from an incident in which Bradford said under oath that he had never cursed at his assistants, a statement that was contradicted by one of those underlings.
If convicted of aggravated perjury, a third-degree felony, Bradford could face a range of punishment from probation to 10 years in prison. He could also lose his license as a certified Texas peace officer and his license to practice law. He has been suspended with pay -- and has temporarily surrendered his badge and his gun -- until the outcome of the trial.
Under Texas law, it is misdemeanor perjury if someone "with intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement's meaning" makes a false statement under oath. To prove aggravated perjury, prosecutors must convince a jury that Bradford's statements were made during an official proceeding and were material to the proceeding.
The Bradford case dates to Nov. 14, 2001, when the chief issued a letter of reprimand to Capt. Mark Aguirre for using threatening language with subordinates. Aguirre was accused of calling officers under his command "sons of bitches" and "lazy bastards" and threatening to "chop (the officers') heads off starting at your anus" and "grind them up into dog patties and stomp them into pancakes."
In issuing the reprimand, Bradford overruled a more serious punishment recommended by a disciplinary committee, which wanted Aguirre suspended for five days.
On May 22, Bradford was called to testify under oath at a grievance hearing in which Aguirre was appealing the reprimand. Bradford testified that he himself had used profanity in meetings with subordinates but never directed it at anyone specifically or in such a way as to threaten them.
According to transcripts from that hearing, Bradford seemed to get tangled when Aguirre's lawyer, Terry Yates, asked about a specific meeting, during Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, in which Bradford may have called Assistant Chief J.L. Breshears a vulgar name.
"I don't remember calling Joe that in any casual term, much less in a mandatorily called meeting where I'm talking to supervisors or subordinates. No, I categorically deny having done that. Do not have any recollection of it. And I would be thoroughly embarrassed. And if I did it, I would be wrong, and it's still not acceptable," Bradford said, according to the transcript.
During the same grievance hearing, Breshears told Yates that the chief did call him the name, "mother ------." Breshears said he had testified to that effect during an earlier, unrelated hearing for another captain.