Thursday, May 23, 2013



DAY 1O, VILLALOBOS TRIAL
MORNING SESSION

The day will begin with about 4 more hours of Villalobos on the stand before the AUSA's get a chance at cross. AUSA Surovic said it will be shorter than Judge Hanen thinks. If everything goes well, closing arguments will be Friday morning, and we should have a verdict by Friday afternoon.

SOME HOUSE CLEANING AND COMMENTS WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE JURY

Emma Tevino, of the Herald, opened the door to this electronic reporting.  Brownsville must credit her with doing this for the community.  Judge Hanen did not have to allow me in - blogging as a news organization is complex - the rules at this point are  complex as to when a blogger is just blogging and when they are acting as a news service.  The community owes a big thank to Judge Hanen for allowing for this level of transparency.  He has done an extraordinary service for the community and justice.

THE EVIDENCE AND CREDIBILITY OF THE EVIDENCE.

This is what the case will come down to, if the jury asks itself why would Oscar de la Fuente, Meme Longoria,  and the rest who have thrown themselves under the bus destroy themselves just to destroy Villalobos.  The jury now knows ODLF will face the State Bar.  They also know DA Saenz has started his own investigation.  The question is, why would he lie knowing it would cost him his law license?  If the jury asks this simple question - I suspect it will not go well for Villalobos.  If the jury decides Oscar De la Fuente lied Villalobos could walk.  Androphy did a brilliant job in getting the DOJ to attack  the credibility of their own witness.

I know from rejected comments that many people do not like Androphy and Colvin - but I can assure you if you needed high profile attorneys to represent you in a criminal case these same people would not think twice about hiring these lawyers.

The DOJ lawyers have a difficult job.  They are trying to clean up the system.  It can be a thankless job.  The community owes a debt to the AUSA's and FBI agents who have worked on this complex case.  To date they have two convictions and multiple pleas.  They have done their job.

I hope my readers have enjoyed being in the courtroom - that was my goal -

Judge Hanen is doing several immigration pleas - when he is done we will get started.

8:15 a.m.  The attorneys are setting up -

DOJ  Wynne - an issue has been raised concerning the availability of a juror come Friday night.

8:20 a.m. Villalobos is back on the stand with Colvin doing Direct

Livingston case

Villalobos did not become focused on the case when the victims family showed up at his office.  Corina his secretary told him the family wanted to see him.

This is when he used Gabby Garcia to help with translations

The mother, a sister and possibly a brother were there.

The main issues was they were concerned the case was not being worked up.  This is when Rubane was still working the file.

The family was also concerned with who was going to stay with the kids and the life insurance policy on the victim.

The family did not want the husband to stay with the children and getting the life insurance policy.  Villalobos  recalled about the lawyer issue -  Gilberto Hinojosa, Trey Martinez, and Eddie Lucio were recommended as attorneys to help the family with the civil side of the case.

Villalobos says he gets stopped on the street and is asked for recommendations about attorneys.  He recommends different lawyers all of the time depending on the issue. He would also consider the town where the person lives.

When Villalobos met with Mario Hernandez (husband) Villalobos recommended the same three lawyers.  Villalobos denies calling any of the three lawyers and telling them about the referrals.

The next day  - Villalobos had a stern conversation with Mattingly about the prep for the case.

At the time Villalobos was busy getting ready to try the Joe Lopez case so he did not have time to be involved in the Livingston.

One day he heard Chuck yelling at someone on the speaking phone.  He learned that charts were not being properly done.  This caused Villalobos to get more involved.

8:30 a.m.

Villalobos went to meet with the bug doctor in Stephensville.  He wanted to understand the process.  The DA's office was having a hard time with the time of death.  This witness was key the case.  They needed to prove the murder occurred the same day the victim and Livingston were at the restaurant.

The expert gave Villalobos and his staff a training course for future cases in how to collect this evidence.  In this case they never collected in bugs, so the expert had to use photos only.

Villalobos was concerned with the original ballistic report - remember there was a second based on evidence they found in Livingstons apartment

The DA's office was shocked by the defense's expert - the DA's office failed to serve discovery on the defense seeking this information.

On the search warrant issue - Limas initially granted the motion to suppress the evidence based the search of Livingston's apartment - then at a later time Limas reversed himself without being asked to.

Villalobos was concerned about the relationship between the defense team and Limas - Villalobos claims they made it clear they were friends from way back.

There was an issue of DNA evidence on a pair of pants which was never tested.  Villalobos does not know if she was wearing the jeans the day of murder,  The  report indicated there was semen on tha pants, but there was no testing.

Villalobos says by law they did not have to test the jeans, but in Villalobos mind they should have been tested.  Had the test shows someone other than Livingston and the husband then a 3rd party could have been implicated.

Chuck Mattingly was opposed to releasing the pants.  They were finally released to the defense just a week before trial.  Villalobos believes it would have created appellate issues. [this is true] 

If the defense can claim the jeans were  not turned over in time and the DNA could not be taken because it degraded, then the presumption as a matter of law is the evidence was against the prosecution.

8:45 a..m.

The family was concerned with the photos of the victim found on Livingston's computer - plus  the mother in law was convinced the husband was involved.

The trial was February 12, 2007.  Both sides had been set up on the tables.  They were given a jury packet - they started looking at the juries - the lawyers were already making notes on the prospective jurors.

While doing this they were called into chambers.

The plan was to pick the jury on Monday - which is how it is done - evidence would have started on Tuesday - this is standard practice in Cameron county.  there were over 100 prospective jurors on the panel.

Limas called the parties into chamber - the meeting was house keeping matters - this is what Villalobos expected - In the chambers - there was Mattingly, Rabb, Barraza, Villalobos,  - defense was Gladden, Millet and local counsel Bobby Lerma (first I heard of this)

The discussion was about the plea - defense was trying to get Limas to put pressure on the prosecution.

Gladden and Chuck were going at it so Villalobos pulled Chuck Mattingly from the chambers.

With a basic plea there has to be a presentence investigation.

Villalobos wanted a mini-trial on the sentencing so as to create a record to pressure Limas on sentencing.

Defense raised a cold plea -  this means you plead guilty and leave the sentencing issue to the judge - this is very dangerous with the wrong judge.

Villalobos says to bring the entire jury pool back a second day is very costly to the county.  This was Limas' idea.

They are at last minute preparation for trial.

As to Chuck Mattingly's statements - Villalobos says there is no way they would have had defense attorneys in there offices - at the time there offices were too small.

When they got to 25 years - Villalobos wanted to make sure any appellate right was waived.  Villalobos wanted this to close out any appeals on pretrial motions (motion to suppress based on the search of Livingstons home) and a Writ of habeas corpus based on new evidence - this would have been based on the late disclosure of the jeans.

The issue of 25 years versus 23 years was meaningless - either way Livingston would do 20 years.  Once the deal was done Mattingly was informed.

The family was informed so they were not taken by surprise.  The family approved the deal according to Villalobos.

9:04 a.m.

Villalobos got there at 9:30 a.m. - he knew the hearing would start 8:30 a.m., buy Limas was never really on time in the past.

Villalobos had to take his daughter to school - by the time he got to court it was pretty much over.

Villalobos got to speak after Limas thanked the jury.

Villalobos wanted Livingston sentenced that day  - when they agree to go to prison there is no presentence report and they go off to prison.

Once sentenced Livingston was bound by the deal.  Limas according Villalobos would allow defendants to withdraw their plea.

THE BOND ISSUE

Villalobos said they do not even consider the bond.  It is something they do not even discuss.

Villalobos said they did not have an agreement on Monday - Villalobos is confused - it has already been established that late Monday an agreement was reached and Mattingly wrote it up

It was only later that Villalobos learned Livingston was released.  Villalobos claims these type problems occurred in the past where he let a rapist walk out of court - Joe Valle was his attorney.

Villalobos arrived after everything was done and he assumed everything was done right.

Chuck Mattingly was adament he objected - no one can give Villalobos a straight answer as to what happened.  the media was going crazy and Villalobos was still trying to learn what happened.

On the mandamus issue was discussed - LJ Rabb and Rene Gonzalez were the appellate lawyers - Villalobos claims there were issues about a successful mandamus - Limas had ordered Livingston remanded to the sheriff - but then released.  [fact - no where in the records did anyone ask Limas to stay his ruling on the release pending mandamus - a necessay part for a mandamus - no competent appellate attorney would have made this mistake]

ON THE BOND

None of the proper procedure occurred on the bond.

Villalobos and Eddie Lucio communications during this period - during this same time they were dealing with a confidential informant - the informant was the truck drive (Sanchez) represented by Eddie Lucio.

The Special Operations Group operated under a grant - the grant had to be resubmitted to keep the case going.

The truck driver is doing this as a confidential informant and expects to be paid.  The only way the snitch could be paid is through a lawyer in a forfeiture case,  A direct payment could get the snitch killed.

On Monday Villalobos is trying to get Eddie Lucio to represent Sanchez so they can get the money and then transferred to the snitch.  Villalobos wanted Eddie Lucio because he could be  trusted to not go public with with game plan.

At the same time Villalobos was also communicating with Eddie Lucio to insure his client was happy with the resolution of the criminal case

Villalobos - he was kept out of the loop on the civil case.

Villalobos denies giving Limas money for anything.

As soon as Livingston fails to appear - the media from all over the state goes crazy - Villalobos had found Livingston with his parents. 

He brought in federal law enforcement once Livingston did not show - this is about when the campaign season starts

Limas was kept out of the loop because he had a big mouth - also he was friends with defense counsel.

Limas has no authority to conduct his own investigation about the failure of Livingston to show.

Villalobos had Livingston's father, and aunt arrested  [ a 3rd person but I did not hear it]  - Villalobos - Limas indicated Villalobos was being too aggressive - this was at the bond hearing.

Villalobos felt like by arresting the father Livingston would turn himself in - the father was arrested in the hospital where he worked.

Villalobos tracked Livingston to the city where he was in India - Interpol was asked for help in Livingston's arrest. Villalobos asked the officials in the Indian city where he was living to arrest him - they even considered hiring an Indian bounty hunter.

Villalobos denies getting money from Eddie Lucio's from the civil case, including special treatment or gifts.

In Villalobos mind the civil suit had nothing to do with what he did.

9:37a.m.

THE MONEY TRUCK CASE

There were five Cameron county investigators being paid by Cameron county but assigned to the feds.-   They work for Cameron county, but as part of the team they report only to the feds.

The feds need locals to tell them who is who - the feds needed SOG agents to help.

The feds did not want DA's office to be using their confidential informant.

The informants top people off where the money is.  There is a lot of competition for the money because you get to keep it.  This helps to supplement the budgets.  In 2005, the office was under funded - they needed funds to make the DA's office to work.

The county never gave enough to run the office so they needed $6 million - the forfeitures and pretrial diversion fees helped to fund the DA's office.

ICE and DEA were very active in forfeiture - when Cameron county employees helped Cameron county got some of the money.

Miles Hutchison was the head of the FBI in Brownsville - Villalobos wanted to recall SOG officers because the FBI was not doing the forfeiture.  The government then agreed to give Villalobos the truck seizure case so the Cameron county DA's office could get the money.

The DEA gets involved drug trafficking organizations.  On the state side Cameron county is dealing with smaller deals.

Villarereal had maybe 8-10 trucks - sometimes they have false alarms - it is vague - the informants only give basic information  - their life is on the line.

In this case the DA used federal information, but the DA was used to find the truck.

There were concerns these false stops and mistakes in the past would put Julio Villarreal on notice as to what was happening.  Once a drug dealer knows they are a target they will do things differently, and try and ID the snitch.  Had the snitch been found he would have been dead.

DA agents work under cover - but for this operation they had to be in uniforms - the SOG agents had to be set up special with a police car.  In this instance the truck was pulled over - improper lane and defective tail light.

The stop by itself was not a concern - but in terms of the bigger picture there may have been problems.

Law enforcement did not do the search there - law enforcement normally then asks the driver to drive to the Combs  truck stop. 

The passenger in the truck was Chaves (Oscar del la Fuente represented him)  A consent to search was done and nothing was found.

Normally at this point you have to let them go.  The agents were certain the truck had money based on contact with the confidential informant who was the driver.  They impounded the truck which according to Villalobos was illegal.

They could not get a search warrant without compromising the confidential informant.

They used a pretext concerning the drivers drivers license to impound the truck. the passenger could have driven the truck.

Villalobos - no legal basis to impound the vehicle [the implication here is Villalobos knowingly did an illegal seizure to make money for his office - this is not lost on me]

10:00 a.m.

They impounded the truck and left the drivers at the truck stop

They went to Los Indios bridge for an x-ray - according to Villalobos this was illegal

This event happened Friday night  - Villalobos says two attorneys are needed for the count - it is after mid-night - at this time Villalobos office was desperate for money - people were being let go - one bathroom for 60 people.

[here is the deal Villalobos knowingly ignored an illegal search so his office would have money]

Villalobos is talking about how this money benefited the DA's office - he found an ADA to witness the count.  The SOG agents, FBI Joe Lopez, and the ADA - there was a sense of excitement over the amount of money.

The FBI had to give permission to store the money - the DA's safe could not hold it.  The money had to be stored at the FBI - then on Monday deposited in the bank

Villalobos was involved in a murder case concerning a woman - David Gonzales has instructions to get the forfeiture filed. 

Oscar de la Fuente had been representing Julio Villarreal - Villalobos feels like the money belongs to someone in Mexico - but Julio Villarreal probably got an interest in the money.

Oscar de la Fuente represents Chavez - and Villarreal - in the case of the truck Villalobos says too many hassles because of issues with lien holders.  The lien holder is contact.

Villalobos wants no questions - to avoid revealing the confidential informant , the facts about the stop, or the greater investigation.

Villalobos references another case wherein there was discovery and they had to dismiss the case.Villalobos did not want a repeat of this.

Villalobos knew Oscar de la Fuente would not do anything to fight the forfeiture.  Villalobos denies any direct negotiations with Oscar de la Fuente - Villalobos claims settlement was between David Gonzales and ODLF..  Julio Villarreal wanted the truck back to the amount to be paid in case was lowered.  Each driver and passenger got $42,000.  Eddie Lucio represented  the driver.  Eddie Lucio filed a request for disclosure [hold it I though Villalobos said Lucio could be trusted to protect the confidential informant and underlying investigation - a request for disclosure would have killed this]

[comment - the request for disclosure filed by Eddie Lucio could have compromised the entire operation - this was a CYA - note above - how Villalobos claims to drop a case because of discovery - Lucio filed the Request for Disclosure of information to give cover on the need to settle right away.  This is obvious to everyone]

Villalobos admitting he proceeded on what he knew to be a bad case destroy any confidence in the system - this by itself is a basis for the State Bar to take action against Villalobos

10:20 a.m. break

10:40 a.m. back

Villalobos agrees the $84,00 paid was a good deal for Cameron county.

Villalobos is saying since the cell phone he and Eddie Lucio talked all of the time.

Villalobos does not keep track entry of Eddie Lucio's finances

VILLALOBOS AND WIFE AND FINANCES

Since day one they had one checking account - paying the bills fell on Villalobos - they had internet savings accounts - a brokerage account on the internet - a college fund for the kids -

For Villalobos and his wife for every day expenses and paying bills - just one account.

There was only one check book - but 2 debit cards - typically bills were paid by Villalobos and by check - Villalobos would get lazy about the bills sometimes - everything on Villalobos was kept on quicken - he would also scan the bills - he would address the bills once he knew how much was available - the check book went back and forth -

Villalobos would purchase a money order to pay a bill since they were first married - in 2004 his wife decided to go to medical school in Matamoros - she had school 6 days a week - plus she had study every day - Villalobos says he was not very supportive during this time and he regrets it.

Villalobos was concerned with his wife going to Matamoros - very dangerous place - the school was deep inside Matamoros - during the  first year the school was held hostage -

Villalobos did not want anyone knowing his wife was over there - he saw it as a security issue - Villalobos felt like his wife could be a target - if they could get to his family they could get to him.

Villalobos - his wife had the checkbook in Matamoros and he needed to buy money orders - he would buy the money orders when he was out shopping for food and or gas.

Villalobos is going over his account when he was using money orders -

Money orders during truck seizure case - money orders were used to pay bills - AES is still his school loan for law school.

Reimbursements from his mother for $4k and more - also includes his brother in law.

At the time Villalobos would use his credit rating to help his family.

Villalobos was close to his mother - she wanted to do things - she wanted to keep it secret from his father - and then she would pay him back - his mother would purchase items - Villalobos would tell his mother how much it was - this was kept from his father - payments would be based on her income.

Same summer Villalobos took his niece to Disney World - so his brother in law reimbursed him - like during the hurricane Villalobos bought things for them  - then he got reimbursed

This is how he worked as a family - years earlier his family stepped in for him when he did not have the money.

11:03 a.m.

Villalobos  - Eddie Lucio never gave him money for anything

MONEY HOUSE CASE

Julio Villarreal had finally been arrested 2 years earlier  - they suspected he had a money house.

[the courtroom is getting packed]

Villalobos did not think the warrant was proper - the confidential informant said the CI was reliable - in this case the CI was saying a friend Chuy told him  he something in the house 2 years ealier -

Villalobos knew the warrant problems would be a huge issue for both the criminal and forfeiture case.

There is a concern of an home invasion - this is the basis for the search warrant - they are trying to show Julio Villarreal lived in the case . - without evidence the money came from criminal activity - if not you cannot do the forfeiture.

After they went in - the big problem - they had gotten the address wrong on the warrant - it was a joint operation with ICE - SOG, and DA investigator assigned to ICE bring ICE in - in the middle of the search they realize the number on the warrant does not match the number of the house - for Villalobos this was a problem

More problems developed as the case aged - the DA agent working with ICE had a nervous breakdown - he was accused on lying on a search warrant - he disappeared and they had to find him.

11:15 a.m.

Seizure in 2010 and case not resolved until 2011 - Oscar de la Fuente represented the Alma and Selma and Julio Villarreal -

The agents drilled in the walls until they found the money.

Concerns - terrible search warrant - terrible fact pattern - fact witness damaged -  Julio Villarreal is now cooperating with the US attorneys office

Villalobos wanted the case pushed fast because of all of the problems with the case.

Oscar de la Fuente did no discovery on the case - he was known for not doing discovery

What lead to the Beaumont trip

Estevan Soto was the ADA to handle to forfeiture - the case was not moving forward - the reason was Oscar was not able to see his client -

To settle the case Julio had to agree to it.

Villalobos authorized the trip to Beaumont to get the deal done - Villalobos claims his office needed these funds desperately

None of the funds can be used for Villalobos salary - his salary it set by the state - the funds are only used by the office.

Villalobos said no side deal with Oscar de la Fuente or anyone else

Settlment had $97,000 went back to Julio - Villalobos agrees evidence shows Julio Villarreal got very little

Pepe Villarreal is Julio's brother

Pepe Villarreal murder case

Pepe's file was almost a dead file - it had been pending for a long time.

It was a dead file after Pepe fled - there was no person to prosecute.  Pepe was in Mexico  - federal officials had to work with the Mexicans  -

Pepe was accused of murdering his son in law - motive was the victim had insulted his daughter

Pepe Villarreal plan

Villalobos discussed bringing him back to debrief - discussed with Oscar de la Fuente

Another case known as "El Boy" was also being handled by ODLF - EL Boy was tied to Villarreal

They wanted to debrief Pepe concerning Zetas living in Brownsville.

11:30 a.m.

Pepe Villarreal was being hunted by the Zetas - Pepe has a murder warrant for failure to appear - a murder case has no limitations - a murder case can be filed and dismissed a thousand times - they had dismissed the Pepe murder case in the past  and then refiled.

The idea by dismissing the murder charge would get Pepe to come in for debriefing.  Villalobos believes Pepe did not know it could be refiled - but Vilallobos already said he dismissed it once and then refiled - Pepe would not know this?

The murder case was dismissed and then immediately refiled.  Pepe would not know of the new warrant.  The goal was to get Pepe to come in - the case cannot proceed without Pepe.  They had to convince Pepe that he was safe.

Villalobos believes the House settlement case was a good settlement

If Villalobos were representing the defendant he would have gotten all of the money back for the defendant.

Again Villalobos is admitting he pursued an improper forfeiture case as a way to raise money for his office - this is highly unethical
 
The money orders - Villalobos reconstructed his bills - he had a $1,500 reimbursement from someone named Alex - for the purchase of a Yorkie dog

Villalobos denies any kickback on the case from Oscar de la Fuente

When running for Congress you can only give $2,500  for each cycle - primary - general election.  The campaign money had nothing to do with any cases wherein Oscar de la Fuente made money.  ODLF had been giving money to Villalobos since 2003

Villalobos had a two day event on SPI - for his long term donors - it had to be a big event - it was for his exploratory committee for Congress.

11:45 a.m.

Villalobos campaign finance reports amounts - questioning just moved on - nothing here

OSCAR DE LA FUENTE SPECIAL TREATMENT ALLEGATIONS

Lawyers had to call his secretary for an appointment - but a lot of times people would walk in - Oscar was a huge political alley - If Oscar de la Fuente changed sides Villalobos would have lost San Benito - Villalobos says without Oscar's help he never would have won either election.

Oscar de la Fuente used his position as a San Benito Trustee to protect Villalobos family members from the gamesmanship which goes on in school districts.

Oscar was given access because of his help - Noe Garza also met with Villalobos - he is a prominent attorney - John Blaylock was originally Villalobos boss, but when Villalobos became the DA he became Blaylock's boss.

Attorneys who did a lot of criminal defense met with Villalobos more than others.

For the most part all the  attorneys were treated the same - but some were disrespectful or tried to hide the facts - some are more willing to try a case - Noe Garza would try anything - this would be a factor in deciding what to do - but more a fact pattern process from case to case.

As DA, you are charged to not seek a conviction, but see that justice is done

[comment - was it justice to pursue bad forfeiture cases so he could raise money for his office?]

Hevery Roel case - The issue was the reluctance of the victim to proceed on the case.  Jonathan Gracia (ADA on case) Villalobos says he was new - middle of the road aggressive - The investigators sent by DA's office - the investigators were sent to insure the victim did not feel intimidated at all - a victim's advocate was also sent

12:00 p.m.

Villalobos sent his own investigator Joe Lopez to verify the affidavit of non prosecution and to insure this was his wishes - Oscar de la Fuente wanted dismissal - Villalobos says they routinely dismissed assault cases when the victim filed an affidavit of non prosecution.

This case though had independent evidence - the stab wounds.

The case was reduced to misdemeanor assault.

In a scenario with two adults and she does not want to testify - the juries tend to not convict.

Villalobos says the Roel deal was a routinely deal which happens all over the US.

Villalobos says if you try to try every case you will never finish - you need 95% plea bargains to keep things moving forward.

Villalobos feels that ultimately he has to make sure things are doing things properly. 

On the cases with an ADA in pretrial diversion the four team leaders - Mattingly and Gonzalez could all approve Pretrial diversion cases which did not meet the guidelines

Daniel Juarez case
Oscar de la Fuente came to see Villalobos about a case wherein the defendant was never arrested - when the DA gets an unarrested case - it goes to intake and gets bounced because there is no arrest.

Oscar went to see Villalobos on burglary of a habit for the defendant - neither had custody of the child at the time - when you break into a house to steal something - they made it into a felony based on a belief of something else than taking his child.

When Villalobos reviewed the case he saw

Judge called lunch be back at 1:05

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good luck on a verdict Friday . . . . . . Chances are closing will not take place till Monday. If we are lucky enough to get closing on Friday, then expect the jury to take a long time to go through what is likely a complicated charge . . . . very unlikely that there will be a verdict on Friday.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is anyway a verdict is back Friday. Goes to the jury on Friday and I bet they at least take a day or two with it.

Anonymous said...

I disagree on de la Fuentes, Limas and longoria s reason to lie. They didn't just volunteer and come forward out of the goodness of their heart, they were all given something for their testimony: either less jail time for other crimes or in oscar's case immunity when he knew he was caught. Feds were aiming for villalobos from the start and were willing to sell their souls to criminals to get there (including a downward departure for limas: the most cupable criminal of this whole mess). But you know the saying,"when you lie down with pig, you're bound to get dirty"

Anonymous said...

Bobby how is Villalobos coming across during his testimony? Is the jury engaged? Based on their reactions, can you comment as to his credibility with the jury?

Anonymous said...

My phrase about the district attorneys office was that it was adrift from its constitutional anchor. What I have read during this trial convinces me that I was right.