Hidalgo County DA questions VP's indictment
November 19, 2008 - 6:19 PM
Laura B. Martinez
The Brownsville Herald
RAYMONDVILLE — The recent indictments in Willacy County against several high-profile officials have at least one Rio Grande Valley district attorney wondering why they were handed down.
Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said he was shocked by the indictments against Vice President Dick Cheney and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, since the allegations against them are a federal issue and deal with federal money.
"We don't have the resources to investigate those kinds of cases. It takes a lot of manpower, a lot of witnesses and a lot of effort. I don't know who conducted that investigation," Guerra said.
He also questions how the indictments could be entered into court records since Willacy County District Clerk Gilbert Lozano also was indicted and is custodian of the court records. Because of his indictment, Lozano would not be able to receive the grand jury report, Guerra said, adding that this is something new and that has probably never been addressed.
Rene Guerra said Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra, no relation, had told him he was investigating a corruption case in Willacy County but provided no other information, which satisfied Rene Guerra.
"I really didn't want to know the details. You don't want to be involved in something like that," Rene Guerra said.
Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, so the names of the jurors are not released to the public. The 12 members and two alternate members of a grand jury are selected from a group of registered voters.
A grand jury could be seated anywhere from six months to nine months, Rene Guerra said.
The nine-month scenario pertains to a jury panel being in the middle of an investigation as the six months is coming to an end and more time is needed to complete its probe. The panel can then request an additional 90 days.
Former local television reporter Manuel De La Rosa served on a Cameron County grand jury for six months in 2006.
The grand jury met on Wednesdays, and he remembers being presented as many as 60 cases per grand jury meeting.
State prosecutors would present the case to the jurors, and it would be up to the jurors to determine if there was enough probable cause - facts presented in the case that provide reasonable belief a person committed a crime - to actually indict the person, said De La Rosa, who now works at a Corpus Christi television station. The jury would issue a "true bill," which means that there was enough evidence to indict an individual; other times, they would "no bill," meaning there was not enough evidence, so they would not indict.
Although De La Rosa may have recognized a name or two during his grand jury proceedings, none were as notable as those in the current Willacy County case, he said.
De La Rosa believes the Willacy indictments will be thrown out once defense attorneys get involved.
"It's very interesting to see what Juan Guerra is doing. It seems like it is a vendetta. He is abusing his power and he's using the grand jury to do it. The grand jury is a true form and not many municipalities use it ... it should not be used for political reasons," De La Rosa said.
Although the Willacy County grant jury meets once a month, this month it met twice, said district clerk Lozano.
The Willacy County grand jury issued routine general indictments on Friday, and the indictments against the public officials on Monday, he said.
The grand jury will meet again on Dec. 12.
Juan Angel Guerra would not say if similar indictments will be returned after the grand jury meets again.
Herald reporter Emma Perez-Trevino contributed to this report.-------Attorneys hope to quash high-profile indictments
November 19, 2008 - 11:17 AM
The Brownsville Herald
A hearing this afternoon might quash several high profile indictments handed down in Willacy County this week, but it's possible the hearing could turn into the arraignment of several people, including a pair of state district judges from Cameron County, a state senator and special prosecutors.
On Monday, a Willacy County grand jury indicted U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp., state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., state District Judge Janet Leal, state District Judge Migdalia Lopez, former Willacy County special prosecutors Mervyn Mosbacker Jr. and Gustavo Garza, and Willacy County District Clerk Gilbert Lozano.
The hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m., but has been rescheduled for 3 p.m.
More than half a dozen attorneys arrived at the Willacy County courthouse this morning representing their high-level clients.
"It is just wild. It's wild, but I'm not surprised at what is going on and what is being presented," said Lozano.
He said several motions have been filed, but he would not release them until after the hearing.
"I don't want to jeopardize anything," Lozano said.
Among the attorneys who filed motions to quash the indictment is Trey Martinez, who is representing special prosecutor Gustavo Garza.
Outside the courthouse Martinez said, "this is frivilous. There is no basis for it."
Other attorneys huddled inside the 197th state district courtroom included Eduardo Rodriguez, who is representing Lopez, Tony Canales and David Oliveira, who both represent GEO.
Attorney Chester Gonzalez, who is Leal's husband, was also on hand.
"Mr. Guerra has abused his power and position to indict innocent persons and individuals," Gonzalez said.
He said that someone should seek to have Guerra disbarred by the State Bar of Texas.
Lopez, who oversees cases in Willacy County, is not in Raymondville today, her staff said. She is working in Cameron County.