Sunday, May 12, 2013


BV TO COVER VILLALOBOS TRIAL LIVE

It is my hope to be seated in the courtroom just before 8 a.m., with my laptop and Internet running by 8:15. I have no way of knowing if the TMobile system I bought is going to work within the court house. The Herald seems to not have a problem getting a signal for tweeting, so I suspect I should have a signal. I have no idea how long the battery will last on the laptop. During lunch I do have the ability to recharge the battery in my truck.

If by 8:45 you are not seeing me blog live there is a problem.  I will still be blogging, but it will mean having to wait for a break to go outside and secure a signal so I can access the Internet.

Let's hope for the best.

A NOTE TO MY READERS

My blogging will be a summary of the testimony and not the official testimony.  In many ways Cameron county owes Villalobos a thank you.  By not taking a plea bargain he is forcing a trial which will expose the underbelly of Cameron county corruption.

Let's hope for the best and that by 8:30 or earlier you will see a test post which will indicate I have Internet service within the courthouse.

I BELIEVE WE HAVE  A CONNECTION

I am in the hallway outside Judge Hanen's courtroom.  Let's hope it works in the courtroom.

COURT IS IN SESSION

The lawyers and judge are going through several last minute motions in limine. A motion in limine deals with  evidence.  If granted the party must approach the bench for permission to use the evidence before moving forward.

The connection in the courtroom is not very good - it took a while to get connected once in the courtroom

Emma has out done me - she brought a TV dinner table to hold her lap top.  I will have mine tomorrow

The mood in the courtroom is very light.  Juage Hanen is doing his best to keep things light, but serious.  I did ride up in the elevator with Armando Villalobos-  He was very nice.  I wished him luck.  IT is for the jury to decide this  case and not the press or bloggers. 

The court is getting ready for opening statements.  I do not know yet if Villalobo's counsel will reserve his opening statement to the defense part of the trial.

The court is providing Emma electricity for her device.  There is only one ply available.  If I go down for a lack of battery I will try and get the court staff to allow me to bring a multi plug device tomorrow.  Emma is not being given special consideration - she was just smart enough to ask first,

Judge Hanen is not getting overly serious about certain forms of decorum.  Everyone is being respectful.  He is putting the importance of allowing the lawyers to do their job or certain forms of decorum which I have seen other judges use to obstruct the lawyers.

The court called a recess- when the judge comes back in I assume the DOJ will do its opening statement.  I am hoping it is short and just a road map.

THE JURY HAS ENTERED THE COURTROOM

The jury has just been sworn - this means double jeapordy has now attached.  Judge Hanen is about to do some timple jury instructions. 

Judge Hanen is explaining the indictment and opening statements are not evidence and may not be considered evidence.  Judge Hanen has reminded Villalobos is innocent until such time as the jury finds otherwise.  Judge Hanen has reminded the jury closing arguments are also not evidence.

Judge Hanen is admonishing the jury that they need to pay close attention to the evidence.  Judge Hanen will allow the jury to take notes but reminds them their notes are not evidence - she should only be used as memor devices.  The jury decides which witnesses to believe and which to reject.

JUDGE HANEN GOING OVER CHARGES

Count 1 - allaged Villalobos used the office of DA to make money for himself outside the law.

Judge Hanen is explaining a lot of legal terms.  It has made it clear to the jury at the end they will each get a handout explaining the same things again.  At this point Judge Hanen is just trying to get them in the mindset of what to look for.  It is a lot to absorb.  This is why they will be given the same information again at the end.  Even for an experienced lawyer it is a lot to absorb.  As the trial gets underway pieces will come together for the jury.

Count 2 - this is a conspiracy charge - which gets to count 1

I know for my readers some of this may be boring, but it is necessary for a fair trial.  As my long term readers know - I am about process and not the result.  Judge Hanen is working hard to insure the process is followed.

Counts 3-9 - Extortion under Color of Right - obstruct commerce through bribery

A FEW GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE JURY

They jury is to talk to no lawyers or witnesses - in fact it is best they speak to no one in the courtroom.  Also they are not to discuss the case with family or friends.  They should not even discuss the evience among themselves during the trial.  They are not to be using the Internet to gather evidence.  They are being remindined to not read the papers, the Internet or watch TV news on the trial.  Judge Hanen is admonishing the jury anything he says is  to be considered an opinion by him about the evidence of the defendant.  Villalobos has no duty to respond to the charges.  The burden is on the government.  Villalobos has nothing to prove.

OPENING STATEMENTS

ATTORNEY MICHAEL WYNN:

The Enterprise which leads to the charge is the DA's office itself

They will discuss three key cases.

Amit Livingston is where it will been.  Wynn is explaining the plea deal - which allowed for the plea and sentencing on the same day.  Wynn then tells the jury the $500,000 cash bond was released to Eddie Lucio, Villalobos former law partner.  Lucio receved $200,000 and then later money was given to former jduge Limas.

The Money Truck case:

Eddie Lucio represented one of the defendants for allegedly almost no work.  Under Villalobos alleged instruction orchestrates the pay off - De la Fuente gets $97,000 for essentially no work - as alleged. 

Wynn is basically in very simple terms explaining the alleged evidence and how it will relate to the charges.  This helps the jury put into perspective the complex instructions already provided by judge Hanen.

Wynn says these can prove some of the charges with bank records, phone records, and court files which show how the case was resolved in an unusual manner.

Wynn did a great job in providing a great simple road map

DEFENSE OPENING STATEMENT\

Androphy is doing the opening statement.  He is starting with a bio - married, lost father at an early age, graduated UT then SMU law school - he always wanted to serve the public.  Claims Villalobos hopes to get back into public service after this trial.

Androphy says Villalobos inherited 16,000 criminal cases plus 2,000 civil matters with only 22 Assistant DAs.  During his tenure Villalobos saw some 100,000 cases during his time in office.  Villalobos increased the number of DAs to 30.

Androphy is saying the cases got complex and the courts were overwhelmed.  Claims Villalobos wanted to do more than prosecute cases.  Villalobos created a separate domestic violence office.  He also created a white collar section.  He also doubled the size of the crime victims service.  The goal was to keep the victims informed.  He "wanted to be a full service office."  Villalobos added the tree of Angels, Peddles on the Lake, school drives for children to insure they had school supplies. 

The evidence will show Villalobos is not a greedy person buyt someone who cared for his community.  Villalobos had careers days to reduce the number of youthful offenders..

Villalobos revamped the pretrial diversion program - it resolves cases outside the courtroom.  Claims Villalobos got the legislature to agree to allow the DA's office to use the money from the pretrial diversion program to be used by the DA's office - about $300,000 a year - most of the money went to charities.

Villalobos never forgot where he came from and he made sure the money when back to where he came from.

Androphy is claiming the government is asking that the jury step into Villalobos shoes.  He is explaining plea bargains are important to the justice system.   He is arguing plea bargains have to be resolved quickly to keep the court from being overwhelmed which will impact the DA's to get to the more important cases.

Claims Armando did not take money for favorable deals.  Androphy is now referring to the witnesses as disgraced judge or lawyers.  He claims Villalobos is not on the tapes.  "Where is the bride without the money?"

De la Fuente - got no charges in exchange for his testimony.  De la Fuente has never been charged with a crime and continues to practice law "despite his admission of corruption."  He "had no ethical boundaries." 

Two forms of plea bargarins - federal and state.

The government is willing to charge Villalobos based on his decisions related to plea bargains are criminal but that the government concerning  Oscar de la Fuente are okay.

Claims Oscar de la Fuent told the DOJ about corruption in their office, and they ignored it.  His sole punishment was barring practice in federal court for three years.  The question is why de la Fuente credible about Villalobos but not credible about corruption within the DOJ's office?

Androphy ends closing

10 minute brak and then first witness - my signal is off and on -

The AP reporter brought a surge protector.   Everyone reporting is working as a team - it is very nice - many of us are now plugged into his surge protector.  Now that I know we can have one, I will bring mine so everyone can be connected.

Judge Hanen just invoked the rule - this means all witnesses must be outside the courtroom.

LIMAS TESTIMONY

Wynn is going over Limas bio.  His dad was in law enforcement.  He has several brothers who have been in law enforcement.  He has 4 children.  He grew up in barrio project for many years.  His upbringing was ruff.  College - Texas Southmost -  became a police officer in April 77' - went to law school 81-84 - Thurgood Marshall in Houston - came back to Brownsville for his roots.

Practice law until January 2001 until elected to the 404th Judicial District Court.  He handled criminal, civil, and family law. 

He lost in his third election - he lost in the primary - March 2008 - left the bench December 31, 2008.  After leaving the bench he opened a law practice.  He was making negotiations with Rosenthal and Watson to be of counsel, while still in office.  They allowed him to keep his criminal practice while referring civil cases to Rosenthal and Watson. 

May 9th 2011, he voluntarily turned in his license.  He also entered a guilty plea before Judge Hanen.  Plead guilty to conspiracy and RICO - for some 8-9 events over the periond of about 2007-2008.

He accepting money for cases and helping friends with cases.  His close friends had cases in his court - got good deals - bonds - he took money for those decisions. 

Limas has known him for some years.  Limas ID Villalobos as the defendant.  Limas says he served Villalobos as a mentor - gave him a job as a public defender.  The court selected the public defender and Limas gave it to Villalobos.

Villalobos was elected in 2004.  Limas claims to have helped with his election.  Limas claims he and Villalobos took trips to Vegas 3-4 times watching boxing.  Rick Canales, Michael Trejo David and Dan Sanchez - Dr. Zamir - all went to Vegas with them.

Amit Livingston - murder case in Limas court.  There were both civil and criminal case in his court.  The civil case was there first - the criminal case was transferred in later.

Limas - the bond was a half a million dollars.  exhibit 426 (I cannot see it based on my seat - it is the docket sheet in the Livingston case.  I'm confused the docket sheet says criminal docket but Limas referred to it as the civil case. 

They are talking about the arraingment.  The traditional plea is not guilty.  Trial setting 2/7  - trial to occur 2/13/2007.  Greg Gladden) (spelling) - Livingstons' lead counsel

Exhibit 427 - civil docket for case filed by Eddie Lucio - an attorney worked in Dallas  - Lucio was Villalobos former law partner in Dallas.  Limas claims was moving down to Brownsville to file the wrongful death lawsuit in the Livingston case,

Limas and Villalobos were around the courthouse when Villalobos told him about Lucio.

Limas believed the case was going to go to trial - the jury was already selected.  The day of trial - the trial did not occur.  Mr. Gladden announce a deal had been reached.

Exhibit introduced is the Plea Paper

The agreement was Livingston would serve 23 years in Texas prison.  The agreement was reached between the DA and defense counsel.  The sentencing occurred at the time of the guilty plea.

A Presentence report gets a history on the defendant.  It helps the court to decide if the plea should be accepted.  No report was done in this case.  The DA did not want a report  according to Limas .  The DA's office did not object to allowing Livingston time to get his affairs in order.  All Limas asked for was the surrender of his passport.

Rule 11 Agreement - a contract under the rules wherein both sides agree to specifics.  Lucio and Associates - practicing in Dallas, Texas - Lucio shows that the defendant has already tendered the  $500,000 cash bond - signed by Eddie Lucio and Villalobos

Mr. Livingston never returned in April to serve his sentence.  Livingston has still not showed up.

After the plea was entered in the Livingston case - the discussion was about the $500,000 bond, and the $200,000 paid to Lucio.

Villalobos had allegedly told Limas Lucio was going to pay Villalobos a fee for the money he made in the Livingston case.

Limas became concerned about his reelection after Livingston failed to appear.  He claims it became a hot potato.  Limas claims he and Villalobos met several times about this in his office, Limas' chambers and other places.

Topic was how to get Livingston back and what was happening.  Limas was looking into his options.  He did not follow-up on his ideas about getting Livingston back.  What change was Limas was now to get money from Villalobos - The first amount was $5,000 paid at Villalobos house.  Limas claims it came from the Livingston Bond money.  Limas met Villalobos in Vegas for a fight

A second payment of $4,700 was paid by Villalobos - Limas cannot remember where it happened.  Limas does not remember the location.  Now he says he remembers a Ford red check owned by Villalobos.

In his mind Limas was getting the money from the bond money - they smoothed things out.  Limas forget the issue.

They are looking at phone call logs.  There are about 15 calls between Villalobos and Limas. 

Exhibits 46-48, deposit slip - 8/24/07 - deposit for $1,800 - it was cash - 8/29/07 - $900 and change - Limas claims it was cash money he had at money from the payments.

exhibit 48 - 8/30/07  - $3075 - cash deposit - Judge Hanen is doing side bar to control counsel arguing

Exhibit 46 - 8/24/07 $1,800
Exhibit 47   8/ 29/07    $900
Exhibit 48   8/.30/07  $3075

Call, Trejo needs to talk to Limas - claims someone is trying to set-up Limas - the call is from Villalobos - Villalobos tells Limas - assume you are being taped.

Date of conversation 12/12/2007

Livingston resolution was 2/07 - now the conversation continues - Judge Hanen is instructing it is up to them to decide the credibility of the transcript - but the tape is the only admissible evidence to be considered

Limas talks about the Golden Rule - born in 2005 - Villalobos and Limas should assume they are being recorded  - Limas came up with the term at his home - he called a meeting at his house after  Conrado Cantu (former sheriff convicted in Cameron county) Villalobos was at the meeting.  They decided here on out they were being recorded.

Trejo was alleging to the FBI that Limas was in cohoots with Gilberto Hinojosa.

Limas claims Villalobos told him Eddie Lucio gave him (Villalobos) a referral fee for the Livingston case.  Limas was paid a thousand case in his office.  I did not hear who gave him the money.  It was Lucio, Limas is testifying he got the money for the money Lucio made in the Livingston case.

He did not turn it down because he needed it.

Limas claims he told Villalobos about the Lucio payment - Limas claims Villalobos asked if Lucio had given him money - Villalobos then allegedly sent Lucio over to Limas office.

Another phone call

Villalobos and Limas - Someone other than Villalobos is saying he convicted Livingston - Lvingston may have visited Huntsville.  Greg Gladden was mad because he wasa taking heat.  John Blaylock is the one talking to Limas. 

Exhibit 9 12/31/07 $900 cash deposit

Judge being invited to party at Lui's back yard -  This person had given information to Emma Trevino - she said she would be giving it to Laura Martinez - she claimed she was too busy with the Livingston matter.

This person is saying he did not give any information to Emma Trevino.  It is Peter Zavaletta on the phone saying to Judge Limas he would never throw Limas under the bus - it was part of his campaign - Zavaletta is saying it is Villalobos throwing Limas under the bus.

Testimony Cornejo Lopez

Judge Lopez won the election against Limas.   Limas admitted that he lied to Peter Zavaletta about not talking to Villalobos.

PETER ZAVALETTA

Limas is claiming he had to give him the 60 days to get (Livingston) his affairs in order.  Next day at Rio Hondo Peter Zavaletta is having a pachanga and inviting Peter Zavaetta.  Guys this is not testimony - it is a recording of Peter Zavaletta.

Another recording:  "maybe villalobos should just resign"  It is Greg Gladden on the phone - talking about someone who resigned and blamed it on prescription drugs.  Limas is saying he say the family of the victim - they spoke to Judge Limas - Gladden says he had to get clearance on the 23 year sentence from Lucio and his clients.   Gladden cannot remember if the victim statement of sentencing came first.

Another call:

Villalobos talking to Limas - asks if Villalobos got an email from Greg Gladden on a narative he sent to the editor on the Livingston case.  Gladden claims in the email the Judge offered to make a settlement,

Limas is talking about filing a lawsuit to remove Cornejo-Lopez from the ballot.  He is discussion this with Villalobos.

Villalobos and Limas were running a get out the phone bank to measure support.  Villalobos is recommending a lawsuit to remove Cornejo-Lopez from the ballot

Limas claims he always uses colorful language when talking to his friends - Villalobos and Limas both use the "F" word back and forth.

Oscar De la Fuente - claims he gave Limas money in relationship to cases - gas and good money.

Meme Longoria - Limas says he was a a go between.  He would get clients for de la Fuente and tried to work them out.  Longoria worked at a daycare run by the Limas family - they owned 2 centers.

Longoria allegedly pick up money from Oscar de la Fuente to influence cases in Limas court

Another call

Longoria and De la Fuente

The conversation is in Spanish - it is not clear enough for me to hear - The jury is reading it in English - I cannot see the screen - I do not want to chance a mistake in translation - I really cannot hear well enough.

Wynn is nowing going over the conversation with Limas.  Limas admits they were talking about Limas.  De la Fuente and Longoria were talking about Limas.  De la Fuente knew Villalobos through his practice - Limas claims in getting together he, de la Fuente, and Villalobos got to gether - seems more like a social setting.

Limas Villalobos Meetings

Limas calender shows he is meeting personally with Villalobos concerning cases he has in criminal court,  Another meeting in Villalobos' office concerning a case.  Another appointment with Villalobos concerning pending cases - another same thing.  Wynn is outlining numerous meetings in Villalobos office concerning pending criminal cases.

Villalobos was not the DA assigned in any of these cases.  Limas and Villalobos had an open door policy to meet on cases wherein Limas thought it merited Villalobos attention.

Corina Galvan - Villalobos main secretary - most meetings happened in Villalobos office - a few times Villalobos met in Limas' office.

Villalobos would have the case files on his desk by the time Limas got to the meeting.

Case Vincente Atkinson - possession of a controlled substance - a bond forfeiture issued when Atkinson failed to appear - Limas got the matter squared away.

Case resolved 2009 - resolved through pretrial diversion.  In the end if the defendant does everything he is suppose to do - the case is dismissed and his record is cleaned.

The indictment showed 4 grams or more but less than 200 - Limas remembers it as 14 grams

The court documetns show Armando Villalobos personally approved the pretrial diversion.

The record show evidence of a prior office by Vicente Atkinson - prior crime of possession of pot.  He had a conviction.  The DA's office filed with the court the notice of prior offense,

A Motion to Abate was filed as part of the pretrial diversion.

Judge ?   abated the proceeding to allow time to complete the pretrial diversion. 

Criteria for Pretrial Diversion

Not eligable if you have a previous arrest other than a class "C" - this goes to the fact Atkinson already had a conviction. - the pot case in Kingsville

Limas testified regardless of the law, Villalobos agreed to the pretrial diversion and Limas claims to have given Villalobos $500 for the deal.  This was done at a cabrito lunch Limas hosted regularly at hit home or office.

Lunch - restart at 1:15 p.m.























1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your work. Very well done. Succinct, but very enlightening. Good job!