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Probe of Bandera police expanding

San Antonio Express-News
BYLINE: Zeke MacCormack, STAFF

Bandera, TX

BANDERA - The investigation that yielded a felony perjury indictment against Bandera Police Chief Jim Eigner has expanded to include allegations of evidence tampering and possible misconduct by at least one other officer, officials say.

Eigner, who denies testifying falsely at an intoxication manslaughter trial in October that saw the defendant acquitted, called the new scrutiny of his agency a tactic by Special Prosecutor Guy James Gray to pressure him into taking a plea deal. At a pretrial hearing last week, Eigner's perjury trial was set for May 12 after he declined a plea offer, the terms of which weren't released.

Gray now is focused on seeing the chief convicted. "There was an effort to reach a plea bargain, and it was unsuccessful," he said Thursday. "There will be no more offers."

Eigner used barnyard terminology to describe Gray's new inquiry into the handling of evidence in the April 1, 2007 crash that killed Joe Heinen and saw his brother, John Heinen, charged with intoxication manslaughter. "I don't anticipate anything coming from their so-called tampering with evidence case," said Eigner, a former San Antonio police officer who became the Bandera chief in February 2007.

At Heinen's trial, the state couldn't produce blood swabs, soil samples and bloodstained fabric from his truck, which apparently were discarded when the Bandera Police Department's evidence room was cleaned and reorganized.

Eigner asserted at the time that some items collected by Department of Public Safety Trooper Michele Kosmalski, who was assisted by Bandera officers in the investigation, hadn't been marked as evidence when stored in his department.

Gray declined to say what evidence is at issue or which other Bandera officers are the subject of the investigation begun this month by Texas Ranger Lance Coleman.

News of the expanded probe was an unwelcome surprise to Mayor Horst Pallaske and City Administrator Gene Foerster, who both declined comment.

The perjury charge against Eigner, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, stems from his testimony that he was unaware he'd been subpoenaed Oct. 14 to testify at Heinen's trial in Fredericksburg.

Court officials said subpoenas for Eigner to appear were issued twice by the defense, but came only after state District Judge Steve Ables dispatched deputies to bring him in.

On the stand Oct. 15, Eigner said he had learned only that day that he was due in court the prior day, a transcript shows.

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