Tuesday, February 11, 2014


ARMANDO VILLALOBOS SENTENCING AT 1:30 TODAY

VILLALOBOS GETS 156 months

VILLALOBOS REMANDED TO CUSTODY TODAY

The public owes a great thank you to Judge Hanen for allowing so many reporters to blog, tweet, facebook live.  His judicial temperament shows a great respect for openness and the First Amendment.  I just love being in his court.

I will blog live, but I do not suspect I will be blogging a lot of the legal argument.  It depends on what is being said.  Again all of this is contingent on my new service working which went into effect today.  It is the same carrier and device, it is just a different plan.  I so rarely use it I changed to a cheaper plan which should provide me more than enough time to blog the hearing and then some.

IN COURTROOM WAITING ON JUDGE

I do not want to get anyone in trouble, but my TMobile did not work and a fellow reporter is allowing me to use their link - professionalism at its best


The Honorable Judge Hanen is in the courtroom

Counts 1,2,4,6,9 overrules jury verdict objections. the court will address count 5 - the Money drug case

Judge Hanen is taking a very studious approach with the lawyers in explaining his concerns with count 5.  To the extent the governments argument is pleading problems is overruling the government's position.  This does not mean judge Hanen is ruling account 5.  The jury found the guilt as to count 5.

There were two allegations - one involving Eddie Lucio and Oscar de la Fuente.  The proof as to Oscar de la Fuente representing a client who disclaimed an interest in the money took the money and then gave a kick back to Villalobos is overwhelming

As to Eddie Lucio this case was not handled on a normal basis.  Mr. Villalobos structured this deal.  The evidence shows within 9 minutes of depositing $42,000 he called Mr. Villalobos then withdrew money.  Then Mr. Villalobos paid with money orders household bills

The lawyers will now argue based on Judge Hanen's summary the validity of the verdict on count five.  AUSA Surovic goes first.

The AUSA is arguing that whether there is a payment to Lucio is meaningless because the evidence against Oscar de la Fuente was clear

Villalobos Attorneys are now Arguing their position

The government is claiming the lack of evidence as to the Lucio part is meaningless is just surplus pleading.  Villalobos lawyers are saying it is not -

Villalobos lawyers saying the evidence is pure speculation that Villalobos received a payment from Lucio.  No one doubts Lucio got money, but Villalobos lawyers are saying a text message or phone call is not evidence that Lucio gave Villalobos money - it is pure speculation

AUSA Surevic - He is arguing that the court must focus on the pattern and not merely one event.  He is arguing that the Lucio withdrawal and then payment of bills by Villalobos is sufficient evidence a payment was made to Villalobos by Lucio

COUNT 3

Does the payer have to know the money is being paid to the defendant - do they have to know that is where the money ended up.  Or if payment made to Mr. Lucio in the Livingston case was enough.  The question is does the payer have to know where the money would go.

Surevic - the payor does not have to know where the money is going.  Claims the payer in this case is Lucio - Judge Hanen states - is that in the indictment?

The indictment says obtained from a person, therefore the Indictment cannot be Lucio because of the language used in the Indictment.

AUSA says there were a variety of payers - including the people of Cameron county - The Bond money -

I know this sounds convoluted - and it is - the government is struggling with its argument as to who the payer is

We are dealing with this is a Hobbs Act violation - Villalobos speaking for the people of Cameron county to release the people's claim to the $500,000 - to Eddie Lucio and the victim's family

Villalobos Attorney

Claims the government is trying to amend the count on the issue of the payer.  the problem is under the indictment Lucio cannot be the payer - Judge Hanen is struggling to insure there is a payer - Villalobos lawyers are saying the government did not put on the evidence.  Judge Hanen says there was evidence of many payers

Villalobos lawyers show for Mr. Hernandez had to know money would go to Villalobos so who could not be a payer

Dr. Livingston as a payer - no evidence he had the intent to pay the bond to set up a 60 day release for his son.  Judge Hanen begs to differ that the  in camera with Judge Limas shows there was intent.  Mr. Gladden represented both the father and son in the civil case.

Judge Hanen is doing an amazing job in hashing this out.

AUSA Surevic - many payers - Hernandez family, people of Cameron county and Mr. Lucio for example - Mr. Gladden had agency for Dr. Livingston, and Lucio clearly was acting as the agent for the Hernandez family which therefore puts them on notice as a payer

Villalobos' lawyers are about to present case law on the issue of whether or not the payer must have knowledge of the pay off.

Judge Hanen - If I know the money is going to Mr. Lucio and in exchange some action will be taken by Villalobos - does the payer have to have this knowledge

NOTE - 6 OF US ARE BLOGGING, TWEETING, FACBOOKING LIVE

Hanen if you pay to the DA's wife, is it with an intent to influence Villalobos - wow - interesting question

MOVING ON TO SENTENCING

Villallobos lawyers wanted to open a matter which is sealed and Judge Hanen said he would not open up the discussion on the sealed motion and his ruling.

Villalobos has verified he went over the presentence report with his lawyers.

OBJECTIONS TO PRESENTENCE REPORT

Arguments are in a sealed filing so we have no way of knowing everything.  Villalobos objects to the summary of the facts by the government, and the court should consider only the facts the court itself heard.

Claims some facts were omitted and that they be considered by the court.  Additional facts which were not presented to the court cannot be used now by the court unless considered by the jury - Villalobos objecting to any facts not presented to the jury.  This is correct - I remember the Supreme Court from last year

RESTITUTION REQUEST

DA Saenz, is asking for restitution of $42,000 for the money truck case.  Judge Hanen says Oscar de la Fuente admitted to it - so it is good

Hernandez family wants $200,000 restitution related to the Livingston matter - Lucio was acquitted so it does not apply

EDITOR'S NOTE

Villalobos is clearly very distraught - he can hear argument is not going well.

ENHANCEMENTS TO THE SENTENCE

A request for enhancement means no back door deals were made. Whatever Villalobos was trying to offer the DOJ was not enough to cut a deal.

The issue is depending if the court aquits Villalobos on certain counts there will not be enough bribes to justify enhancement

Judge Hanen overrules objection to enhancement on bribes

THERE WILL BE ENHANCEMENTS IN THE SENTENCE - THAT IS CLEAR AT THIS POINT

I do not see how there will not be enhancements, unless the DOJ lawyers all of a sudden announce there has been cooperation by Villalobos

Judge grants objection to claims that Justino Ramos paid money - not in evidence

As to money David Sanchez received not presented at trial - objection to evidence concerning David Sanchez and confidential source granted - cannot be considered by the court - not presented at trial

Judge Hanen says he can adopt the loss amount at $681,000 based on the evidence - Villalobos lawyers wantJudge Hanen to use a different formula so there is not a 14 level enhancement -

Villalobos lawyers says no enhancement for the loss - they want the amount limited to the amount received by Villalobos - this would be a level 4 enhancement instead of a 14 level enhancement

AUSA Surevic - claims the sentencing guidelines allow for loss to the government - and the guidelines say the court should use the greater amount

Hanen holds loss amount at $691,000 - maybe $691 - we heard different numbers - funny - in the end it does not change the result . well just consulted and agree it was changed from $681 to $691

Villalobos objection - 4 level enhancement for being a leader of 5 or more people - They are trying to say Limas ran the enterprise and Villalobos' role is being overstated - they are now claiming there were not 5 or more people - former codefendant was acquitted so they do not get to 5 or more people

AUSA Surevic - Mr. Lucio's acquittal is not a variable here - the court is to consider the verdict in this case and not the Lucio case.  DOJ arguing a lot of this happened after Limas left the bench - so Limas as not the leader.

Villalobos lawyers claiming the government is now adding other actors who were not part of the trial - merely being employed Villalobos does not make them participants

Court grant objection in part and made it a 2 level enhancement instead of a 4 level enhancement

2 LEVEL ENHANCEMENT FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Villalobos claims this is a post trial issue and therefore cannot be considered.  AUSA claims Villalobos tried to get Joe Lopez to get Oscar de la Fuente to change his testimony,  Joe Lopez refused to be party to same.  The information was never used.  The key here is it was not considered by the jury, but by the court.

Judge Hanen - "is there anything wrong with digging up facts about witness?"  DOJ Joe Lopez was direct to dig up the facts to influence testimony.  Villalobos attorney no evidence to support DOJ's allegations

As to any perjury by Villalobos there is no evidence.  By allowing for an allegation of perjury to get to obstruction of justice during sentencing would chill defendants from testifying.  DOJ - meaningless if he lied he lied - it has nothing to do with his right to testify.  He is free to not lie.

Judge Hanen asks would not the jury have considered Villalobos' testimony before rendering a verdict?

Judge Hanen is concerned with the government's argument.  Judge Hanen is being so analytical - I am loving it - he notes would each swearing match lead to perjury for enhancement purposes

JUDGE HANEN GRANTS OBJECTION TO THIS ENHANCEMENT 

Losing a swearing match is not a basis for enhancement

Adjusted level is now a 36 based on the objections.  they are checking the math on the level of enhancement based on the objections Villalobos won on.

All parties now agree the number is 36.

There is a Motion for downward departure filed by the defense.

We are now looking at the issue of victim statements.   Villalobos' lawyers claiming by allowing the victim statements is making the process into a circus for the press

VICTIM STATEMENT BY MS. GARCIA

A translator is being used.  She is thanking the court for the opportunity to speak about how Villalobos conduct impact their family.  She blames Villalobos for Livingston not serving his sentence for the murder of daughter.

In the beginning she felt comfortable with Villalobos  - he claimed to be the defender of her murdered daughter.  His acts were to the contrary.  He did was a thief does - he rob us of justice - to sell the murderer his freedom.  Convicted and confessed.  And when we went to state our discomfort for his bad actions and to ask for an explanation for his acts- Very arrogantly he ran us out of his office.  He told them to get out of his office the same way they came in.  They left crying and humiliated.  They felt impotent - Disoriented they asked themselves - what did we do wrong - there was not justice for my daughter,  Ignoring the law and the murderer is out free.  This has caused no closure or peace.  It is not fare that people without scruples and shame are ignoring our laws.  He not only only mocked us but also the citizens who voted for him.

Your honor Judge Hanen we ask that you take into account his position as district attorney was to defend victims - not take advantage of murders to enlarge his pockets - our family and friends were impacted - we feel indignation

Thank you to the federal government for having taken this case into their hands

10 minute break - Villalobos wants to address some of the sealed issue - the court is offering the record - we have to leave the courtroom for Villalobos lawyers wants to deal with sealed issues.  the courtroom has been emptied

WE ARE WAITING ON JUDGE HANEN

Channel 5 hired a former AUSA who is here reporting - Rebecca is going to be a great asset to the community understanding these issues.

Above correction - we all talked and agree Judge Hanen found the loss at $691 - but an earlier number of $681 was used

Side note - as reporters we are working as a team - we have three multi plug surge protectors lined up so everyone can be plugged in - it is good team work

JUDGE HANEN IN BACK

Now moving on to actual sentencing

Objections to count 5 overruled.

Verdict on count 3 thrown out

AUSA SUREVIC ON SENTENCING - a very serious case.  the government is beginning with the abuse towards Yolanda de Leon.  He was the chief law enforcement officer for Cameron county.  AUSA says he cannot summarize this better than Mrs. Garcia

VILLALOBOS WAS SELLING JUSTICE - FOR YEARS TO COME THERE WILL BE DOUBT AT THE COURTHOUSE

Incalculable damage to the people, the courts and attorneys by his conduct - he needs to be sentenced at the upper end.

ANDROPHY FOR VILLALOBOS 

Arguing Villalobos is not the one who made Cameron county what it is.  It is not an excuse for Vilallobos, but it is wrong to put everything on Villalobos.  [note I agree and this is the problem with the case - real bad people are being allowed to walk]

Villalobos counsel to address guideline issues for downward departure

Wants a level 2 downward because he is less culpable  - there is a larger issue than Villalobos [ I agree I am not saying I agree with the downward request - I am just saying this is a lot bigger than Villalobos]

Villalobos is asking for a level 8 downward department and probation with home confinement because - character of defendant - father of two and a very supportive family   - comes from a family of public service - military and teaching - Villalobos has spent have of his years as a lawyer in public service and want to do even more public service by serving in Congress

Letters say he is a dedicated father to his children and extremely involved in their life.

Family member of a victim wrote a letter on Villalobos behalf for the justice her family got.

Villalobos' resume shows the programs he created at the DA's office and the positive impact the programs had on the community

SECOND FACTOR

Home confinement is restrictive enough - it is not a violent crime - he has an entire group of family and friends to support him

KIND OF SENTENCE AVAILABLE

Given Villalobos' skills has a lawyer could be used to help the community - this would serve as a punishment.  the community could benefit from this

FOURTH FACTOR

No one size fits all - the regular guidelines are not applicable to Villalobos given his contributions

FIFTH FACTOR

Prison overcrowding should also be considered

SIXTH FACTOR

Unwarranted disparities in sentences  - given the various sentences - Rosenthal taken out of the equation Mr. Villalobos at 188 months exceeds what the others received.   - they are arguing that exercing the right to a jury trial should not be a basis for a longer sentence

SEVENTH FACTOR

Restitution not justified

On argument to Dismiss Forfeiture is in a Sealed filing - so we cannot see it.  they are discussing a money judgment related to the forfeiture.

AN ADDITIONAL MOTION FOR DOWNWARD DEPARTURE

They want to a level 8 - downward departure

Four Variables

Villalobos has two young children - losing their father would be bad for their development.  [not commenting is killing me]

Aberrant conduct - this is the first time he has had anything like this in his life.  he has been a law abiding citizen his entire life

Long history of community service

Level 8 allows for probation - level 11 allows for probation with home confinement - the court should not allow Villalobos skills to go to waste when they can be used for benefit of the community

Androphy - addressing how Villalobos accepted campaign contributions fueled the fire - it is hard to say why the donation was given - a simple contribution could be termed a bribed later on.

He is arguing how by electing officials it fuels the fire on the perception people have.

He is arguing forfeiture cases are settled routinely - Judge Hanen - "but they do not solicit ... ."

He is basically saying it is too easy to say a campaign contribution is a bribe based on how a case turns out.  This is a fair argument - but sometimes it is too obvious to pretend it was not to influence the elected official

He is arguing how the Plea Bargain process is not clear to the people so they do not understand how campaign donations impact the process

AUSA Surevic arguing against the Downward Motion

AUSA Takes off the table the issue of judgment for forfeiture because the restitution order will do the same

Now they are discussing if Limas or Villalobos was the leader

4:24 time - sorry I forgot about this

The children will not be abandoned - his conduct shows it was not aberrant behavior.

VILLALOBOS TO ADDRESS THE COURT

He is upset, he says he tried his best to bring honor to his family.  "Obviously I have not because they are here"  "I have done my best with my kids."  He is speaking about his children and how well they are doing in school.  He did discuss a private matter which I will not repeat - the childs' privacy is more important

He wants to continue to be there for his children.

"I still have a lot to offer this community"  He has served since he was a boy.  He spent his entire life preparing for public service.

He claims to still help anyone who asks - he says he is not the monster they claim he is

Villalobos takes his seat

Androphy asks that he be sentenced to Bastrop and be allowed to self report

JUDGE HANEN ABOUT TO PRONOUNCE SENTENCE

The jury found Villalobos on 7 of 9 counts.  Count 3 dismissed.  Today's hearing was really about technical compliance with the statute and the not the evidence.  There is no federal bribery statute which covers a state official.

Sentencing disparity is a valid issue.  But in the other cases Judge Limas and Jim Solis tried to rectify some of their wrong - Villalobos did not.

Judge Hanen recognizes Villalobos has done many good things for the community.    Negative side - evidence Villalobos was guilty of many counts.  The jury found Villalobos guilty not the judge.

The discretion must be used wisely and not made for sell or who have political connections or the right lawyer.  This must also be weighed.

We basically have a breach of trust.

Judge Hanen calling 156 months a just sentence under the  circumstances

Villalobos to be put into mental health care, and provided any care he needs.  The mental health is only required if needed.

Once released he will get community service.

Restitution  $339,000  - $139,000 to DA Luis Saenz  - also ordered to pay $200,000 to the minor children -restitution

No forfeiture ordered given the amount of restitution.

Fine of $5,000 for each count total $30,000 - payable to the Clerk

THE ISSUE OF SURRENDER

Wants Villalobos taken into custody today.  Judge Hanen already said he does not believe Villalobos will ever be a repeat offender.

AUSA claiming who knows what deals Villalobos is making with DA Saenz's office and his old friends in Saenz's office - WOW

The government feels more then 10 years means he should be taken into custody today.

Remanded to Custody but will consider a later motion to give him bond pending his reporting to jail.

They are considering how his appeal will change his custody.  The notice of appeal will be filed today.

A later motion will consider allowing bond pending appeal or reporting

Androphy appears to be withdrawing for appellate purposes.  This means nothing.  It allows for the argument of ineffective assistance of counsel







10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yaaaayyy!!!
How do we get it on iPhone?

BobbyWC said...

It will be here - on my phone I just google Brownsville voice - click on it and there it is

This has not been a problem yet - but I will not accept any comments on what should or should not happen until after Judge Hanen issues his ruling.

Judge Hanen is a leader on this issue of live blogging, and I believe those of us who are covering the trial and hearing live need to show extra respect to the court and the process.

For me, although I am not at the courthouse yes, I am.

This post will be limited to what happens at the hearing, until after Judge Hanen rules.

I have no concern Judge Hanen is even looking at the BV - it is about respect

We as bloggers need to prove to the courts when it comes to live coverage the coverage will be given the respect it deserves. The dignity of the court is important. I intend to respect the court.

So, sorry no comments on what should or should not happen until after we have a ruling.


Bobby WC

BobbyWC said...

Please allow me to post - people need to read your comment. I told his mother I would keep the discussion on his case going. She thanks me for be fair in my coverage - so too did the AUSA.

But His family really needs to read your comment - no one will know who you are

bobby WC

Anonymous said...

I had a tremendous respect for Armando. He was a good trial attorney. His ambitions took hold and he could not shake the feeling of being the person in power and being the king. He wanted to be THE ONE individual everyone had to come to with their case, and for his political gain.

But it is not just Armando who went to jail today. It is all the judges, attorney's and politicians who used the system to gain either monetary advantage or political advantage over rivals. This occurs not just in Cameron County but all over the State of Texas.

But those who worked at THIS courthouse, in his D.A.'s office, or in the criminal courts on a daily basis saw it, and did nothing to change it. Everyone wanted to close their eyes not knowing if they could somehow use what was happening to their advantage.

If a twinge hits you as you read the stories about Armando in your insides, then you know that you were part of the problem that allowed a few individuals to hijack the system.

Is it over, I hope so. The public needs to know that not all the judges or attorney's at the courthouse are corrupt. Not everyone should be tainted with the image of Armando heading to jail or attached to the headlines that the Courthouse is for sale.

Is it still up for sale either monetarily or politically? I can't say and you would think not.

Armando was a man that did a lot of good for Cameron County. His ambitions and hunger for power is what brought him down. My only hope is that the current District Attorney will act wisely and judicially and not allow individuals either politically or monetarily have an affect on his decision making.

I am truly sorry for Armando and the price he is paying for his failure to listen to others and anoint himself king.

BobbyWC said...

Well said but Saenz is already a lost case - when the AUSA said that Armando needed to be remanded to stop the deals he is making with the ADA's under Saenz this was the second time the DOJ went after Saenz.

The full story tomorrow - this is far from over - I was told point blank by a reliable source the DOJ and Villalobos are still negotiating - today was just a way to put pressure on Villalobos to get more serious - more tomorrow on the post - I am just too tired

I'm hoping to reach out to Villalobos mother and brother - they need to take the lead in taking down the real leaders - myself and several reporters agreed with Villalobos' lawyers he was not the leader - he is just the scapegoat to protect bigger people - the DOJ knows this and is trying to get Villalobos to give them up

Bobby WC

Anonymous said...

It saddens me to hear people say such ugly things about Armando;cuz the truth is he's a really good guy...and a great friend ..He's loyal and kind and always there when you need him...He's also a wonderful father; and an excellent attorney ...Bezrahtz Hashem he's out soon and he wins his appeal and he gets a chance to help raise his babies and continue helping out others in need...G-D bless u and ur family Mando cuz I know ur one of the good guys. I would also like to thank you ,BWC for giving the guy fair coverage .Classy...
Leesa Tijerina

BobbyWC said...

I think it was all BS he was the leader - how he moves forward at this point will prove this.

He clearly did wrong and lost his path - but that does not change the fact he took a DA's office basically operating in slum lord conditions and made significant reforms which made the DA's office a better service for the people.

But he lost his way - and that part of the story needs to be told - the how - the real key players remain unindicted - Villalobos did not make himself - he was derailed by a hopelessly corrupt system and to survive he had to join it. But the hopelessly corruption system remains 100% intact and we need to take it down.

I can assure you people like Saenz, Dominguez, the Begums and others will continue to pay Montoya to discredit me. They all have too much to lose if the hopelessly corrupt system is destroyed.

I will stay on the story until the entire legal machine of corruption in Cameron county comes down.

I can only hope I can get Armando to redeem himself by joining forces with me to end the institutionalized corruption in this town.

His big mistake today was not turning to Mrs. Garcia and apologizing for how he treated her. That was shameful

He is a good person who lost his way in a hopelessly corrupt system. The decisions were his - so he needs to do jail time. But I hope he gives the DOJ what they want so he can go home to his children real soon.

My prayers are with you Armando and your mother. If I could I would take all of her pain. But now you need to do the right thing.

Salvation is in redemption and the BV will be the first to push for home confinement if you just do the right thing - I know the right thing is in your heart - go back to your heart Armando and Joshua will not fail you. He will guide you to peace with your mistakes.

Next is Luis Saenz

Bobby WC

Anonymous said...

As much as I hate to disagree. He fell onto a system that the feds could never conquer. Now all the elected officials know they are on notice.

Anonymous said...

Hope the Feds go after the rats at BISD.
These people gave made deals and continue to do so

BobbyWC said...

Certain trustees have already hired criminal defense counsel - this I have verified. The counsel simple would not tell me which one they were representing

Bobby WC