Jailed for Traffic Stop: Cop Hasn't Just Threatened It

Embattled Dallas cop jailed wife of former Cowboys linebacker over U-turn in July

Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Zach Thomas claims his wife was mistreated by the same Dallas officer now at the center of a misconduct probe involving Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats.

Thomas said his wife, Maritza Thomas, was stopped in July by Officer Robert Powell making an illegal U-turn. Her husband was at training camp in Oxnard, Calif., at the time.

Powell gave Maritza Thomas, a pharmacist with no prior criminal record, five tickets, four of which were later dismissed. She was handcuffed, put in the back of a police cruiser, detained at the Dallas County Jail for about three hours and threatened with the possibility of spending the night behind bars, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday.

In total, Maritza Thomas was detained for about five hours.

"This in no way compares to what happened to Ryan Moats and his family," said Zach Thomas, who played for the Cowboys last season and is now a free agent. "But we wanted to tell our story, not knowing how many others have been affected by Officer Powell. We know the vast majority of the Dallas police force are good and professional people, but this guy just seems excessive."

The charges that were dropped were failure to show proof of insurance, running a red light, having an improper address on a driver's license and not having a registration sticker on the windshield. She accepted deferred adjudication for the illegal U-turn charge, and her record will be cleared next month.

"This situation never should've happened," said Maritza Thomas' attorney, Brody Shanklin. "Unless extraordinary circumstances exist, no person should be arrested for a Class C citation. In this case, it was an example of Officer Powell being overzealous and exerting his authority in a manner that he never should have."

Bob Gorsky, Powell's attorney, questioned the timing of Thomas' allegations.

"I do understand that an arrest on multiple traffic charges happens often and is absolutely proper under these circumstances," Gorsky said. "Often, when there are multiple charges, an arrest made and bond posted, some of the charges from a single event are later dropped."

The Thomases said Powell was dismissive, but they have not alleged that he used abusive language. There is no dash-cam video available of the incident, but the police report lists the five citations and confirms that Thomas was taken to jail.

Under Texas law, a person can be arrested for any Class C misdemeanor citation except speeding and having an open container, Judge C. Victor Lander, Dallas' chief municipal judge told The Dallas Morning News.

A traffic citation is given in lieu of an arrest, and the officer has the option of making an arrest, he said.

But he said it is "relatively rare" for an officer to make such an arrest because of the time involved in taking the person to jail and filling out the paperwork. Usually, an arrest occurs if the person has a warrant for unpaid traffic tickets, Lander told the newspaper.

Maritza Thomas, who is a pharmacist, had no prior criminal record.

Arrests for minor traffic offenses usually happen because of how the person behaved during the stop, Lander said.

Thomas said Powell would not accept her explanation of where her vehicle paperwork was before she was taken to jail, according to The Dallas Morning News. When her mother, who speaks little English and was in Dallas for the first time, asked to be able to go to a nearby apartment to retrieve the paperwork, he unbuckled his holster, scaring her mother, Thomas told the newspaper.

Powell has apologized for the Moats incident. A dash-cam video shows the officer berating Moats for about 13 minutes near the Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, where his mother-in-law was dying. He was stopped after rolling through a red light.

His mother-in-law died before he could make into the hospital.

Powell is on leave pending an investigation of the Moats incident.

Dallas police declined to comment on Thomas' allegation, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The department will look into any complaints about Powell, but will not investigate everything Powell has ever done, a police spokesman told the newspaper.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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