Deputy testifies against suspended Smith County constable
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Update - 4:14 p.m. The defense resumes.
Banks said that even though Harris never verbally instructed her to take more items, she said she knows Harris well enough that she knew that was what he wanted her to do.
Banks said Harris did not wear a bodycam at any time when out in the field conducting business.
Banks is dismissed. The trial will continue Wednesday morning.
Update - 4:07 p.m. - The defense passes Banks to the state.
The state asks if Banks accidentally turned her bodycam on. Banks said she accidentally turned it on during the search and claims she did not know how to work it. Banks said Harris never wore a bodycam.
Banks said she isn’t here to try and get a better deal from the state, though she admits she would like a better deal.
Update - 4:01 p.m. - Banks said despite 10 years of law enforcement experience she decided she would take whatever she wanted.
Banks admitted she lied twice to the Texas Ranger investigating.
The defense asks if Banks put the stolen items in Holman’s vehicle as a way to conceal the items from Harris. Banks denies this and says she did it because Holman’s vehicle was closest to the door.
Banks claims she thought she would be terminated if she did not go along with Harris’ directive to steal. She said she went along with it because she needed the job to take care of her family.
Update - 3:45 p.m. - Banks said she considers her actions wrong and regrets it after watching the bodycam footage.
Defense talks to Banks.
Banks said she had never served a writ of eviction before the incident at hand. She said she was not aware that Traylor-Harris had never served one before that day either.
The defense asks if Traylor-Harris had established “a criminal empire” before this. Banks said no. She is asked if this is the day Traylor-Harris decides to break bad and establish a criminal empire. She says she doesn’t know.
The defense asked Banks if she remembers being told to make sure all bodycams are on. Banks says she doesn’t recall. Reviewing the footage shows Harris checked to make sure the bodycams were recording. Banks is asked by the defense if a person starting a criminal empire would ensure a recording is being made. She said she isn’t sure. She said she isn’t sure what Traylor-Harris’ intentions were.
Update - 3:15 p.m. - Banks said Traylor-Harris had told her to admit to nothing. She later met the Texas Ranger at the office and was arrested.
“It was time to come clean,” she said.
Banks testified she has made no deal with prosecutors, but is hoping for some consideration in exchange for her testimony.
Update - 3:08 p.m. - Banks testified that after they were through, they went back to the constable’s office. She stated everything placed into Holman’s unit was brought inside the office.
Banks testified she then took items like makeup, watches, and sunglasses.
She stated Traylor-Harris took some of the watches and discovered the AirPods box to be empty.
Banks testified she later lied when contacted by a Texas Ranger about the alleged theft.
Update - 3:04 p.m. - At one point, the district attorney asked why Banks could be seen in the video putting some items back.
“I didn’t want them,” she said on the stand.
Update 2:52 p.m. - Banks said the body camera was not on when Traylor-Harris told her in the kitchen to take items.
Video was then shown of Sgt. Holman asking if her body camera was off while outside of the home.
Traylor-Harris could be seen at times shaking his head and smirking during Banks’ testimony.
Update 2:34 p.m. - The video being watched was captured by Sgt. Derrick Holman, Banks said.
Holman can be heard in the video saying, “take whatever you want.”
The video abruptly ends soon after the statement was made.
Banks said a one-on-one conversation was later had between her and Traylor-Harris in the kitchen. Banks alleged Traylor-Harris told her to “take what you want.” Banks testified Traylor-Harris made a zipping motion in front of his uniform while saying this.
“He was my boss, so I’m going to do what he says to do,” Banks said.
Update 2:25 p.m. - On the stand, Banks said the eviction she and the constable’s office were executing was her first ever.
She told the court that the plan was to knock on the door have The Cascades staff move the items out of the home.
Another body cam video clip was then shown from the initial knock on the door.
On the video, a conversation can be overheard over whether or not Banks’ body camera was recording.
Update 1:54 p.m. - Poster delivered emotional testimony about the way she encountered the constable’s office and the alleged theft.
Following her testimony, the jury was dismissed for a brief recess. Former Deputy LaQuenda Banks was then called to the witness stand out of the jury’s presence.
Judge Skeen then offered information about Banks’ rights. Banks told Skeen she has decided to waive her fifth amendment privilege and elected to testify. Banks’ attorney, Brett Harrison, then told the court he supports that decision.
Banks will be the state’s next witness.
Update 1:31 p.m. - The defense pressed Poster on who she saw taking the items in the video shown earlier in court.
Poster said she saw Banks, Traylor-Harris, and Sgt. Derrick Holman taking items.
The state’s third witness was Poster’s daughter, who was home when the eviction and alleged theft happened.
Update 1:17 p.m. - When questioned by Putman, Poster said some of the items stolen were eventually returned following a Texas Rangers investigation.
After a recess for lunch, Poster was back on the stand and questioned by the defense.
A police report filed by Poster over the stolen items was introduced as evidence.
Poster told the court that a Tyler police detective questioned the validity of the theft claims. Poster said she asked the police detective to please stop harassing her.
The Texas Rangers eventually got involved, according to Poster.
The trial of suspended Smith County Pct. 1 Constable Curtis Traylor-Harris began Tuesday morning in the 241st District Court.
Traylor-Harris was arrested in 2021 for allegedly stealing from a home during an eviction. He’s charged with official oppression and theft of property by a public servant.
The trial started with opening statements from both sides.
“A person who swore to serve and protect, did just the opposite,” said Emmil Mikkelsen, assistant district attorney.
The defense argued that they believe the jury will find that Traylor-Harris did his job, and attempted to discredit witnesses expected to be called by the state.
The state’s first witness was Justin Hall, a sergeant in the criminal investigation division with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office.
Hall was tasked with pulling body camera video from servers during a search warrant of the precinct one constable’s office.
The state’s second witness was Brittany Poster, the woman renting the home where the alleged theft occurred in The Cascades of Tyler.
Poster testified that she knew an eviction process was underway to move her family out of the home.
Poster’s daughter is the one who called Poster to notify her of the eviction, being that she was at home.
Poster said she was told by the constable’s deputies on scene that drugs were found in the home. She said she felt confused and distracted from the eviction issue at hand.
The body cam video captured by Deputy LaQuenda Banks was then introduced as evidence by prosecutors and played for the jury.
District Attorney Jacob Putman then presented an outline of items allegedly stolen from the home. The indictment alleges watches, sunglasses, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics, and currency were stolen during the eviction.
Video was then shown of Traylor-Harris and Banks inside the home going through personal items.
While showing the body cam video, Putman stopped it at one point to show what Poster said appeared to be Deputy Banks taking out an AirPods case in a unit. AirPods were allegedly one of the items stolen.
Putman also pointed out the video showing Banks taking makeup. The item’s estimated values were written by Putman on a board facing the jury.
Other items taken by Banks on the video include Oakley sunglasses from Poster’s room and RayBan sunglasses from her daughter’s room.
Poster also stated that a necklace was missing after they were evicted.
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