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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Battling DA’s Wage Legal War In South Texas

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS (CN) - Battling district attorneys in Willacy County impaneled grand juries against one another - one of them illegally - former District Attorney Gustavo Garza says in a federal claim against present District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra. Plaintiff Garza says he got a warrant from a judge in neighboring Cameron County on Saturday to search Guerra's offices at the courthouse on Sunday.

Garza says that after a Willacy County Grand Jury appointed him to investigate criminal accusations against Guerra, Guerra impaneled a phony grand jury, without notice, on a Sunday, to interfere with Garza's search of his office, and caused Garza to be arrested.

The complaint states: "On Jan. 11, 2007, plaintiff was appointed to act as a special prosecutor at the request of a grand jury by the judge of the 197th Judicial District Court of Willacy County, to investigate certain criminal accusations against the defendant, Juan Angel Guerra, who is the current Willacy County District Attorney."

Garza says he obtained a warrant to search Guerra's offices, from Judge Janet Leal, district judge of 103rd District Court of nearby Cameron County. He says he got the warrant on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007, and planned to search the courthouse office the next day, Sunday, so as not to interrupt courthouse business.

Garza says Guerra learned of the impending search, and to impede it, he and his investigator, co-defendant Roy Tamez, opened the Willacy County Courthouse that Sunday, "ostensibly for the purpose of conducting a meeting of a grand jury, but whose true purpose was to thwart and interfere with the execution of the search warrant".

As evidence that Guerra's "grand jury" was bogus, Garza says that the grand jury bailiff was not notified and was not present, there was no court reporter, and the clerk of the court "was never notified of this session of the grand jury and therefore could not accept any indictments that may have been presented by such grand jury."

Garza says that when he and his officers arrived to search Guerra's office, "Guerra and Tamez, as had been their plan, advised the officers that were present to execute the warrant that a grand jury was in session and that intrusion into the district attorney's offices would constitute interference with a grand jury which was in session."

The complaint continues: "The defendant, Guerra, known in the community for his publicity seeking antics directly or indirectly summoned local news media to record the confrontation which he himself hoped would occur as he had orchestrated."

Garza says he asked to speak to the foreperson of Guerra's grand jury - at which point he learned there was no bailiff or reporter there - and that "within minutes ... the grand jurors advised the plaintiff and the law enforcement parties present that they had adjourned and were leaving the building and had not been in the offices of the district attorney."

Garza says he and his officers proceeded with the search, and that "because the defendant Guerra continued to obstruct the processing of executing the warrant, he was arrested by an officer of the Raymondville Police Department."

Garza says that on Feb. 22, 2007, another special prosecutor was appointed to help investigate Guerra - former U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacker. He says a grand jury indicted Guerra on March 21, 2007.

Garza says that on March 27, Tamez and Guerra "contrived the preparation of a false affidavit that they intended to use to support the issuance of an arrest warrant against the plaintiff and other persons who had executed the search warrant of the defendant Guerra's office. ... The sole purpose for seeking the arrest of the plaintiff and others was in retaliation for the plaintiff's role in acting as a special prosecutor in the investigation of the defendant, Guerra."

On April 4, Garza says, he was arrested "for the contrived charge of obstruction or retaliation, a felony," based on the warrant and affidavit that Guerra knew to be "false and groundless and [contrived] in retaliation".

Garza also claims that "Guerra and Willacy County have staffed the district attorney's office with persons that have prior criminal convictions and are unqualified to hold positions in a criminal district attorney's office." He says that Tamez is not qualified for his job, as he is not a certified peace officer, and that Guerra employs "another criminal investigator who is a disbarred attorney."

Garza demands damages for violations of the 14th Amendment, conspiracy, false imprisonment and official oppression, and pain and suffering.

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