Potential civil lawsuit increases taxpayer interests in Central Texas soldier’s ‘resisting arrest’ case

The March 16 arrest of Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham, an active duty soldier stationed at Fort Hood, continues garnering attention nationwide with the video released earlier this week reaching “viral” proportions and its public interest implications predictably growing with a lawsuit now in the works.

The initial charge of resisting arrest, search or transportation has now been reduced to interfering with an officer’s duty.

Grisham was arrested as he and his 15-year-old son, Chris, were on a 10-mile hike, a requirement for the younger Grisham’s Eagle Scout hiking merit badge. In response to reportedly receiving a “man with a gun” call from the city’s outskirts, Temple Police Officer Steve Ermis approached the pair asking Grisham what they were doing, the reason for his being armed and then allegedly tried to grab Grisham’s rifle. With a military background including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Grisham says he instinctively pulled back asking what he (the officer) was doing stating that he couldn’t take the gun.

The released video picks up as Grisham is being restrained, handcuffed and seemingly pushed against the hood of the police car. Police dash-cam video also captured the altercation though it has not yet been publicly released.

Grisham attorney Kurt Glass told the Temple Daily Telegram he requested the video two weeks ago through the county attorney’s office. Though, per Glass, the site through which his request was made notes a five business day window for attorneys’ requests to be fulfilled, he has yet to receive the video.

The criminal prosecution of Grisham’s case is being handled by the Bell County Attorney’s office. The video will presumably show the lead-up to Grisham being restrained – a point which could be key not only in the criminal case, but also in any upcoming civil litigation.

With KCEN-HD reporting Grisham’s hiring of an attorney to sue the city of Temple, a new public interest aspect emerges in this case as Temple taxpayers will bear the cost of the city defending itself should a suit be filed.

Temple having a history which suggests overstepping bounds in defense of lawsuits that likely could and should have been settled months – even years – prior to their resolution further suggests this case meriting close taxpayer scrutiny.

Taxpayers financing civil lawsuits deserve full disclosure of just what such an action involves – expenses and otherwise. A lawsuit progressing to trial offers such public access. Cases though are routinely resolved via legal settlements. Just as routinely are the terms of settlements being deemed confidential thus blocking taxpayers from knowledge of the true expense associated with their government officials’ (elected and otherwise) actions.

Public entities’ ability to keep taxpayer-funded settlements confidential, however, may soon end as HB 382, legislation sponsored by State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, seeks to prohibit conditions or provisions requiring confidentiality with regard to legal settlements funded totally or partially by taxpayer dollars.

At a Monday hearing before the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, five witnesses spoke in support of the bill, no one testified against it. The bill is currently pending in committee. If passed, it would take effect Sept. 1.

This bill comes on the heels of Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon costing his constituents nearly $500,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Bell County residents have already once shown outrage toward a municipal government failing to disclose settlement-type information after 2011 brought the Killeen City Council electing to spend $750,000 in taxpayer funds buying out the contract of then-City Manager Connie Green and then refusing to disclose the reasons. The public responded by ultimately supporting a recall and replacement of those council members.

While this case is seen as having nationwide civil liberty and gun rights’ implications, its potential financial impact on local taxpayers could also be significant.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks about a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended beneficiaries or heirs.