AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man accused of arson and making homemade incendiary and explosive devices in January 2021 has had two felony charges against him dismissed and the arson charge reduced to a misdemeanor after spending 17 months in Travis County jail, according to court records.
The Lone Star Fugitive Taskforce — a group comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement officers — arrested James Sailors on Jan. 5, 2021, in east Austin. Sailors was accused of igniting an SUV and attempting to make an explosive device by placing a gas can in an oven but never turning on the appliance, according to an arrest affidavit.
During his arrest, a U.S. marshal shot Sailors, 37, in the thigh with a beanbag round, according to federal court documents and Sailors.
Sailors stayed in Travis County jail through his plea agreement on May 3, when two charges of third-degree felony possession or manufacture of a prohibited weapon were dismissed. As part of the agreement, Sailors pleaded guilty to class A misdemeanor criminal mischief, which was reduced from a charge of arson, a second-degree felony, according to Travis County Court records.
“I didn’t do what they say I did. None of those things, and I got shot for it,” Sailors told KXAN by phone in early May. “I got put in jail for 17 months for criminal mischief.”
From jail, Sailors filed a federal lawsuit in October 2021 against members of the arresting taskforce and the U.S. marshal who shot him. Sailors alleges a marshal shot him with the beanbag round while he was on his knees with his hands in the air, and law enforcement destroyed video evidence of the arrest, according to the federal complaint.
In response to Sailors’ lawsuit, one defendant — a special deputy U.S. marshal — filed a motion to dismiss in which he acknowledged Sailors was shot in the right leg with a beanbag “to bring him to the ground and complete the arrest.” Sailors was also transported to Dell Seton Medical for treatment before being sent to jail, according to the motion.
The marshal argued Sailors’ complaint fails to state a claim, is insufficient and “fails as a matter of law.” The case remains pending in federal district court. Sailors is representing himself.
Following Sailors’ arrest, the U.S. Marshals Service posted a news release in January 2021 that did not mention Sailors had been shot with a beanbag round or transported to a hospital. A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service said the agency would not comment on a matter with pending litigation.
Sailors’ criminal defense attorney, Janet Reinarz, said, in her opinion there were significant credibility issues with the complaining witness in the case.
“Our investigation revealed that she had committed numerous criminal and fraudulent acts, including accusing him of these crimes. The police relied almost exclusively upon her statements as the basis of their case,” Reinarz said.