BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - Several public officials, including state Senator Eddie Lucio, conspired to defeat Willacy County District Attorney Juan Guerra's re-election bid because he investigated their receipt of kickbacks from prison operators, Guerra claims in Federal Court. Guerra's lawsuit, and another one filed by two of his staff members, are the latest in a series of complaints alleging dirty politics in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Guerra claims Lucio, D-Brownsville, steered more than $100 million in prison construction contracts to co-defendant Corplan Corrections Corporation in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks.
In the related case, two of Guerra's staff members sued Willacy County, The City of Raymondville and its police chief Uvaldo Zamora, claiming they were falsely accused of stealing $200,000 from the county.
"One of the wrongful purposes of, or motives of the perpetrators, behind wrongfully securing the indictments was so that Mr. Juan Guerra would not get elected," Marte Guillen and Ofelia Guerrero aka Ofelia Hernandez say in their federal complaint.
Guerra filed his complaint pro se. Guillen and Hernandez are represented by Hugo de los Santos of San Antonio.
Here is Courthouse News' Nov. 25, 2008 story on the beginning of the long-running brouhaha.
Police Chief, D.A., at War in South Texas
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - The police chief of Raymondville claims in Federal Court that Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra cooked up a false affidavit to get a warrant to arrest him in retaliation for the chief's investigation of the D.A. Uvaldo Zamora sued Guerra and his investigator, Roy Tamez, on civil rights charges.
Guerra is, to say the least, a colorful character. The Brownsville Herald reported last week that a defense attorney wants Guerra sanctioned for failing to show for a recent hearing on an indictment Guerra filed against Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, longtime Texas state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., and "several other elected officials, including two Cameron County judges."
The Herald story features a picture of Guerra with a goat.
In Zamora's federal complaint, the police chief says a Willacy County grand jury asked his help to investigate Guerra in January 2007. Zamora says he obtained a search warrant for Guerra's office and executed it on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007, to avoid disrupting business.
But Zamora says that on Feb. 10, Guerra contacted members of another grand jury, and asked them to meet on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007 for "the sole purpose" of interfering with and obstructing Zamora's execution of the search warrant, which he had obtained from a Cameron County judge.
(Brownsville is the seat of Cameron County. Raymondville and Willacy County are to the north.)
Zamora claims Guerra and Tamez opened the Willacy County Courthouse on Sunday, "ostensibly for the purpose of conducting a meeting of a grand jury, but who's (sic) true purpose was to thwart and interfere with the execution of the search warrant that these defendants knew would be conducted on that date by the plaintiff and other law enforcement authorities."
In proof of that statement, Zamora says, there was no bailiff or court reporter present at Guerra's so-called grand jury, and the clerk of the court was never notified of it.
Zamora says that "Guerra, known in the community for his publicity seeking antics, directly or indirectly summoned local news media to record the confrontation which he had orchestrated."
Zamora says he executed the warrant and arrested Guerra, who obstructed Zamora's officers.
On Feb. 22, 2007, former U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacker was appointed a special prosecutor to aid in the investigation of Guerra, and on March 21, 2007, a grand jury indicted Guerra, Zamora says. He claims that on March 27, Guerra and Tamez cooked up a false affidavit "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."
Zamora says Guerra's and Tamez's "sole purpose" was to retaliate for his role in investigation and arresting Guerra. Zamora was arrested on March 30, 2007, and charged with obstruction or retaliation, a felony, based on the affidavit which, he says, Guerra and Tamez knew "to be false and groundless and in retaliation" for his executing the search warrant.
Zamora also claims that "it is well known by the community in general that the defendants, 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."
Zamora claims Tamez "is not a certified peace officer," that Guerra has "another criminal investigator who is a disbarred attorney" and that Guerra's "chief secretary has a prior conviction for theft and insurance fraud."
He claims the defendant Willacy County has known all this for years but has refused to enforce standards.
Zamora demand punitive damages for conspiracy to violate his civil rights, false imprisonment, and official oppression. He is represented by John Blaylock.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.