DALLAS — There's no doubt that Dallas police Sgt. Stephen Baker gave testimony that wasn't true last year in a DWI case.
In court, Baker testified Marcial Salazar ran a red light, giving him the probable cause to stop Salazar during a traffic stop on July 2012. However, dash cam video showed it was actually the officer who ran the red light, indicating that Salazar had to have had the green light.
Baker kept insisting Salazar ran the red light even after the video was played over and over in the courtroom.
But was it perjury?
Dallas police public integrity investigators concluded that that there wasn’t any “evidence of a criminal offense.” Baker has been on administrative leave since March 2015, collecting his $83,000 annual salary.
“Lying on the stand under oath is a felony for anyone but a Dallas police officer,” said Ashkan Mehyari, Salazar’s attorney. “They can go up and say whatever they want to say, even being confronted with it and they know they have no repercussions whatsoever.”
An internal affairs investigation, which has a lower standard of proof, concluded that Baker did give “false testimony” in a court proceeding. He still faces discipline in that case.
The conflict centers around Baker’s testimony during Salazar’s trial last February.
During the trial, Baker repeatedly refused to acknowledge his error, saying, “I don’t make too many mistakes,” according to a transcript of court testimony.
In the end, the judge concluded that Baker’s testimony was not credible. He granted Mehryari’s motion to suppress. He then instructed the jury to enter a finding of not guilty.
Lauren Haggerty, the prosecutor, wrote a memo that she and Baker watched the video twice before the court proceeding. He described his behavior as odd and said he asked her four times for a hug.
Haggerty wrote in her memo that Baker was so “focused on not backing down he basically perjured himself on the stand.”
In his interview with internal investigators, Baker says that he couldn’t make out the “distinct details” because he didn’t’ have his reading glasses with him. He acknowledged that he never notified either the defense or prosecutors that he did not have them.
Mehyari says the dash cam video was played on multiple monitors throughout the courtroom – one of which was right in front of Baker’s face.
“That's absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “There's no possible way that he would convince anyone in that court room that he had a vision problem.”
Baker denied that he had given false testimony, finally acknowledging that he made a mistake.
“I thought he was trying to say I lied about the traffic stop when I first made it and I didn’t lie,” Baker said. “I made a good faith traffic stop that I thought he ran the red light.”
Until last year, Baker was a regular in court and a regular in DWI trials. He presided over DPD's alcohol breath testing program. He bragged that he was a resident expert.
Shortly after making the Salazar arrest, Baker was put into a special monitoring program for troubled officers. Despite that troubled disciplinary history, Baker was promoted to sergeant several years ago. That boost in rank was given even though an interview board had unanimously recommended that Baker not be promoted, based on his disciplinary history and work history.