Monday, November 24, 2008

DA Watch: Juan Angel Guerra, Take 2 - Cheney Indictment, Texas Supreme Court Joins the Party

Well, Juan Angel Guerra certainly isn't going quietly into that good night ....

In my last post, we all felt bad for ol' Juan Angel, because it sure seemed ... well, ... ahem ... suspicious that he was indicted on three felony charges, only to have them all dismissed as being totally without merit AFTER he'd lost the March primary - forcing him out of a DA position he'd held for 3 prior terms.

Juan Angel Guerra said it was fishy at the time the indictments were zapped. But what could he do? He was out of the ballgame, public office was now a part of his past like it or not.

Surprise, Surprise -- Juan Angel Guerra's Using His Last Few Weeks as Willacy County DA to Take On Some Big Kahunas - Like Vice President Dick Chaney and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Juan Angel's name had barely faded from the front page of the Brownsville Herald on the election - indictment scandal, when there he was again.

Juan Angel Guerra is now in the national media spotlight for having the guts (and you have to give him that, regardless) of taking on the Vice President of the United States, the former top Trial Lawyer for the country, and some other Pretty Big Players.

Yep, that D.A., from that little-known little county in south Texas, is getting lots of word count in papers like USA Today because he's gone from a local political skimish to a big, big national battle.

Why? Guerra believes these guys are responsible for abuses suffered by prisoners at private run-for-profit detention centers in his part of Texas -- where one prisoner has died from injuries he sustained. And he wants them held accountable.

Juan Angel Guerra is mad. And He's Getting Madder and Madder.

Apparently, this isn't Juan Angel Guerra's first rodeo. He has made a career out of going up against public corruption and he's been particularly zealous about investigating the privately run federal detention centers in his area.

Guerra already won a fight in 2005, when he got three guilty pleas to bribery charges from some corrupt county commissioners -- based upon contracts to build and run the prisons.

Guerra Called His Investigation "Operation Goliath" and He was Code-named "David"

After that, Guerra continued investigating but he kept things close to his vest. He called his investigation "Operation Goliath" (he was "David") and everything was handled on a need-to-know basis. Lots of evidence was kept locked up at his house, because he didn't trust the courthouse enough to keep it there.

Juan Angel Guerra obviously believes that there have been serious wrongs done at these for-profit prisons, that prisoners have suffered, and he's staked his professional reputation as well as his personal life on righting that wrong.

This guy knew before he filed a single piece of paper that his enemies were going to laugh at him, that some were going to question his sanity and others would impune his motives.

Doesn't look like Juan Angel Guerra cares much about that.

What Guerra Is Charging -- Prisoner Abuse, Prisoner Death, Cover Up

Guerra's investigation has culminated in the following indictments being issued by the grand jury (to read the full indictments, click HERE). Half of them involve charges against those who tried to stop Guerra's investigation, and the other half deal directly with alleged prisoner abuse at run-for-a-profit prisons in Willacy County:

State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.
Acceptance of Honararium (illegally taking money related to prison consulting fees)

GEO Group, Inc., Et al.
Murder and Manslaughter (murder of a prisoner at the detention center)

Richard B. Cheney and Alberto Gonzales
Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity

2008-CR-0129-A (incomplete)
Migdalia Lopez
Abuse of Official Capacity
Official Oppression

Janet Leal
Abuse of Official Capacity
Official Oppression

Mervyn Mosbacker, Jr.
Abuse of Official Capacity
Official Oppression

Gustavo Garza
Abuse of Official Capacity
Official Oppression

Gilbert Lozano
Abuse of Official Capacity
Official Oppression

The Willacy Courthouse Drama of Last Week -- Judge Banales Tosses It to Austin

Last week, the big guns rode into town (in this case, Raymondville), and tried to toss their weight around and get the indictments dismissed. They're just silly, they said.

Juan Angel stood strong. He pitched a fit on Wednesday that they were trying to argue a motion at a time when their requests should not properly be heard. Guerra won.

The big guns came back on Friday. Again, they argued that the indictments should be dismissed. They're just silly, they said.

Juan Angel got really mad then. He started yelling and pounding his fist (go read the media accounts, this isn't exaggeration here) and looking to things like procedure, again. The required notice for such a hearing had not been met.

Judge Banales -- the same judge that tossed Guerra's indictment aside earlier this month -- sent the whole kit-and-kaboodle up to the Texas Supreme Court.

Fight Goes to the Texas Supreme Court

So, today, the fight has moved to Austin. Juan Angel Guerra's already on the battlefront, he's filed an affidavit with the high court - and you can read it if you want to do so.

Here's Juan Angel Guerra's affidavit to the Supreme Court:

Sure, there are some who will argue his affidavit has some procedural problems of its own -- but he may have a good point about that hearing notice requirement stuff. Heck, the calendar alone should help prove that point.

Is Juan Angel Guerra Crazy?

You know lots of people are going to call this guy crazy. Nuts. Lost it. Wacko.

Some are going to think he's crazy because he's not spending his time finalizing his lucrative private-sector gig for when he leaves office in less than six weeks.

Some are going to call him nuts because he is a small town DA in the backwaters of Texas, and he's trying to take on Dick Cheney for crimminey's sake. That's nuts!

Some are going to be all academic (like Dean Treece) and argue that Guerra's got no constitutional footing here: he's a state guy going after federal folk, and ones with immunity to boot. Zany.

And, some -- hopefully some -- will stop long enough to ponder what Guerra's arguing about.

Juan Angel Guerra is arguing about prisoners being hurt and sometimes killed in prisons that are being run by private companies for a profit.

Prisoners are being hurt and dying -- and maybe the craziest thing of all is that a Prosecutor, a District Attorney -- is risking all he's got to try and stop this.

It's a nice change to the DA Watch stories on this blog, by a long shot. Usually, they're lying about witnesses or hiding evidence or being so ready to convict that innocent men are spending their lives behind bars while guilty men go free.

If Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra's crazy, then maybe it's the kinda crazy we need.


USA Today

Brownsville Herald

KGBT-TV 4 (Rio Grande Valley)

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