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Senior Judge Lucius Bunton said he will rule in 10 days on a civil
damage suit heard Tuesday in U.S. District Court here.
Johnny Dale Seago of Monahans sued the city of Fort Stockton and its
former police chief, Gary Wayne Buchanan, claiming damages under the
Americans With Disabilities Act.
Seago testified that he was injured on the job in 1992 when he was a
patrolman for the Fort Stockton Police Department. Chief Buchanan
refused to accommodate his injury by providing a part-time dispatcher
Buchanan said no such position was available.
Jesse Garcia, Fort Stockton city manager, was the last witness to
testify, and the attorneys closed their arguments at 12:45 p.m.
The only other case on this morning's docket was a sentencing.
Judge Bunton sentenced Armando Vallez-Franco to 46 months in prison,
with two years supervised release, for illegal re-entry after being
Vallez, a Mexican citizen, asked to be deported "as soon as possible
because I am ill."
He said doctors told him recently that he needs an operation for a
growth in his stomach.
Judge Bunton recommended he be incarcerated in the Federal Corrections
Institution at Fort Worth, where they have hospital facilities.
Brothers Greg and Steve Ashley squared off in a court battle this
morning in U.S. District Court: Greg representing an ex-police officer
and Steve defending the city of Fort Stockton and its ex-police chief.
Johnny Dale Seago, now a Ward County Sheriff's deputy, testified before
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton that he was injured on the job in October,
1992 while a patrolman for the Fort Stockton Police Department.
He said that a chiropractor he was seeing for a back injury ordered him
off the job, and he received worker's compensation pay during 1993. When
he obtained permission from the doctor to return to "light duty" four
hours a day, Police Chief Gary Buchanan refused to provide him a
dispatcher position, he said.
Buchanan ordered him to move out of a children's shelter operated by his
wife for the city of Fort Stockton, Seago said. He had served as foster
father to children in emergency situations, provided security and did
some yard work at the shelter.
Buchanan said he provided the position to the Seagos so they would have
a place to live rent-free and catch up on their bills.
As a result of the "ultimatum," his wife resigned her position as
shelter manager, and they both moved out. He resigned from the police
department April 18, 1993 and filed a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission shortly thereafter.
Buchanan denied giving Seago an ultimatum to return to full duty or move
out of the shelter.
"He was never told he had to leave," he said.
But he admitted that in his EEOC response he gave Seago until Mar. 22,
1993 to have a release from the doctor to return to work or to move out
of the house.
Steve Ashley objected to his brother introducing the EEOC document and
others, which he said were made available to him only this morning. He
asked judge Bunton to sanction Greg Ashley for his failure to provide
documents in advance as earlier ordered.
Fort Stockton City Manager Jesse "Chuy" Garcia was also scheduled to
testify in the one-day bench trial.
Federal grand jurors returned two indictments Thursday on immigration
Faustino Rios-Gregorio, 25, of Albertville, Ala. is charged with three
counts of transporting aliens. If convicted, he could be sentenced to
five years in prison with three years supervised release and a $250,000
Ricardo Orlando Garcia-Rosales, 23, is charged with possession of
counterfeit immigration documents: an alien registration card. His
maximum sentence at conviction would be 10 years in prison, one year
supervised release and $250,000 fine.
Rafters have full access to the Rio Grande through Big Bend National
Park, with Congress' adoption of a budget funding the Interior
Department, which operates national parks.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton signed an order this morning "mooting" a suit
filed by four river rafting charter companies against the government and
park rangers who had closed all roads into Big Bend during the partial
"They have funded the park service from now to the end of this fiscal
year," Judge Bunton said. "So there's nothing to do."
He had ordered the park service to open one road to allow rafters access
to the river, and had a hearing scheduled for Monday on a permanent
That hearing was cancelled when Congress funded the park service. But
before it was cancelled, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson entered the fray by
asking Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to re-open the park to
accommodate daily travel on state roads through the park.
Brewster County officials had also complained about problems caused by
the forced closure, which ended Saturday.
County Judge Val Beard and others had complained the shutdown was
creating problems for truckers and others because it kept them from
cutting through the park as they were accustomed to doing when traveling
from one side of the county to the other.
The only alternative left to them was to take a circuitous 150-mile
detour around the park, Beard said.
Beard said her main concern was the potential danger to residents if
emergency medical personnel or law enforcement officers were delayed
during emergency calls because they had to take the detour.
``That's strictly by the grace of God that it didn't happen,'' said
Beard. ``If that was prolonged it was bound to happen sooner or later.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton on Monday reversed a federal court jury's
award of $35,000 to Billy "Bubba" Doyle for lost wages while he was in
Doyle claimed he was convicted of aggravated marijuana possession on
perjured testimony that Ward County and Clay McKinney, then 143rd
district attorney investigator, conspired to offer at his trial.
Before his conviction, Doyle said he earned $2,000 per month working as
an auto body appraiser, and the jury apparently used that sum in
arriving at the $35,000 award.
However, Judge Bunton agreed with Ward County's attorney, Richard
Bonner, and McKinney's attorney, Mike Barclay, that no evidence of wage
rate or the time plaintiff missed from work as the result of alleged
misconduct by the defendants was offered in the civil trial.
"The jury could not have reasonably made a decision, free from
speculation, regarding plaintiff's lost wages from the evidence adduced
at trial. Therefore, the jury's answer to Question Number Four cannot
stand," Judge Bunton said.
Question Number Four concerned the sum of money due to Doyle as a result
of conspiracy by McKinney and Ward County that deprived him of his due
process of law.
In his motion to set aside the jury verdict, Barclay argued that no
testimony was given to support the finding that McKinney conspired with
Ward County or any other person for the purpose of putting perjured
testimony before the jurys that convicted Doyle.
"If perjury was committed, there was no testimony to show that defendant
Clay McKinney was a party to causing perjured testimony, if any, to be
submitted to any jury where plaintiff was a defendant," Barclay said.
Doyle was first convicted in 143rd District Court in Monahans and
sentenced to 50 years in prison. Judge Bunton overturned that verdict
and ordered a new trial. The first re-trial in Lubbock resulted in a
hung jury, and the second in a guilty verdict and prison sentence. Doyle
is free on parole after serving a total of three years.
Doyle's attorney, John Osborne of Houston, argued that several
witnesses, including attorneys Ted Painter and Hal Upchurch, and
District Judge Bob Parks testified in the federal trial about perjury
offered in the first trial before Parks in Monahans.
That testimony concerned statements made by Painter to Judge Parks in
chambers and his conflicting testimony at trial. While it concerned a
statement made by McKinney to Doyle, no claim was made that McKinney's
testimony was perjured.
"It's a relief," McKinney said this morning of Judge Bunton's ruling.
"After six years battling with Doyle in court and after dragging my name
through the mud, it feels good to be cleared of it."
McKinney said it is part of the job working with drugs to expect to be
"I know we all do. I guess it is almost inevitable, because it is going
to come sooner or later whether you are doing the job right or not.
"It's just something you expect and you have to live with it and ride it
out. If you are in the right, you don't have anything to worry about,
and that's what happened on this case."
Importing marijuana into the United States is a no-no, U.S. District
Judge Royal Furgeson made clear this morning in handing down the maximum
sentence to a Mexican citizen charged with illegal re-entry after being
Jose Antonio Galindo-Villa asked for mercy, showing Judge Furgeson a
letter from his wife in Mexico. He said he re-entered the United States
because he was poor and could only earn enough in Mexico to buy beans
"My child is very young. He needs better food in order to grow up
right," Galindo said. "That's the only reason I came back, not because I
Galindo was on supervised release at the time of his arrest last year by
U.S. Border Patrol agents, who found 63 pounds of marijuana in one of
two vehicles also carrying several illegal aliens, Judge Furgeson said.
Although Galindo denied he helped cross the marijuana into Texas from
Mexico, Senior Judge Lucius Bunton had found that he did and revoked his
"I concur with Judge Bunton's view of the situation," Judge Furgeson
said. "If this were simple re-entry, I might be willing to sentence near
the bottom of the guidline range.
"The fact Mr. Galindo has been involved in a marijuana case before this
that resulted in the sentence terminating his supervised release, and
the fact Judge Bunton found, and I agree, that his coming back in was
also involved with marijuana again really makes me believe that this
sentence should be at the top of the guideline range," Judge Furgeson
"Let me tell you, Mr. Galindo, the fact is, not only can you not come
back into the United States, but you can't try to import drugs into the
United States," he said.
"This is the second instance where you have come back here with
marijuana. That's just absolutely unacceptable...If you come back in
again, another judge will do the same thing, and you will spend more and
more of your time in a federal prison.
"It is one thing to come back in to see your family, but it is another
thing to come in with drugs with you."
In handing down the 57-month prison sentence, Judge Furgeson accepted
the agreement between government prosecutors and defense attorney
Christine Kelso to make it concurrent with his present sentence and
imposed three years of supervised release after completion of the
Sylvestre Vera-Jiminez walked away with a 40-month sentence for his part
in importing marijuana in a separate incident. While that was near the
lower end of the sentencing guideline range, Judge Furgeson didn't buy
his sad tale of just earning money for his family in Mexico, despite
being shown a color photo of them.
"The thing that just worries me is the fact that you were involved in
these transactions more than once," Judge Furgeson said. "I can only
imagine how it would be not to have money for your family, and what that
might cause you to do. But the fact is, you took an unlawful way to
support your family. You have an attractive family. You will be
separated from them for a long time."
Vera fled from law enforcement officers in April and May of last year
when they tried to stop him with a load of marijuana, Furgeson said. The
first time he fled back to Mexico. The second time, he abandoned his
vehicle and was caught on foot about 200 yards away.
"The fact he flees leads me to believe he is more involved in these
matters and has more information on what's at stake than someone just
bringing it across," Judge Furgeson said.
"It is of special concern to me that, if you you have an agent who has
to chase down Vera in the middle of nowhere, that creates other kinds of
dangers to law enforcement officers that I don't normally see in these
cases," he said.
Judge Furgeson accepted guilty pleas in three drug cases and will
sentence the defendants, Carlos Herrera-Cerda, Jerry Dale Thomas and
Javier Garcia-Quintana, in 60 to 90 days.
Narcotics seizures in the Marfa Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol during
the last quarter of 1995 were destined for Midland-Odessa and
surrounding areas in 95 percent of the cases, said Chief Agent Richard
The final tabulation of seizures amounted to about 11,000 pounds of
marijuana valued at $84 million. Cocaine seizures totaled 14 pounds
valued at $450,000.
These seizures represent 102 cases, with 124 arrests being made. Of
those, 69 were U.S. citizens.
Agents seized 59 vehicles as part of the criminal activities, along with
16 weapons. Currency seizures amounted to $82,000.
Few of the cases were filed in the Pecos Division of federal court.
Smaller loads were turned over to state courts. Larger cases with
connections in the Odessa-Midland area were filed by DEA agents in the
Court is in session, whether Congress and President Bill Clinton pass a
budget or not. That is, until Jan. 16 when reserve funds run out.
District Judge Royal Furgeson has a docket scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday,
with several pleas and sentencings. But his Jan. 29 trial docket may
have to be cancelled if budget negotiations break down.
"I can't imagine that Congress wouldn't fund the courts and the
President sign it by then," Judge Furgeson said this morning. "If they
don't, I guess we won't be holding court at all after Jan. 16."
Federal judges must be paid because the Constitution requires it, but
other court personnel are not so fortunate. And contract workers such as
the four court security officers in the Pecos Division are among those
who would not be paid.
J.C. White, who came out of retirement to accept the CSO position when
the new courthouse opened, said a budget agreement would come quickly if
everyone's salary was cut off, including Congressmen, the President and
"Let's shut 'er all down," he said.
In a news release from the administrative office of the U.S. Courts
issued Thursday, Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, chief judge of the sixth
circuit, said the executive committee has determined reserve funds that
are keeping courts operating during the shutdown will run out in
Once these funds are exhausted, judges will remain on the job, but funds
will not be available to pay for judicial staff or for other court
"This means that there will be no money to pay jurors, Supreme Court
employees, court reporters, clerks of court and their staffs, probation
officers who supervise offenders, the central staffs in Washington of
the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and the Federal
Judicial Center, and United States Sentencing Commission personnel.
"In addition, funds will not be available to pay court security officers
- who are not government employees and, therefore, cannot be compelled
to work without pay - threatening court proceedings.
"Our justice system will be seriously disrupted. Judges will be unable
to conduct jury trials. Indictments against criminal defendants may have
to be dismissed under the Speedy Trial Act. Injuctive orders against
violations of the law (air and water pollution, abridgement of
constitutional rights) and money judgments awarded to victims may in
large measure go unenforced," Judge Merritt said.
"Under such circumstances, a breakdown in our system of constitutional
order and law enforcement may occur. The judges, working alone in the
absence of appropriated funds, will do their best to maintain order, but
our normal system of justice cannot be guaranteed to our citizens during
this period," he said.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton has a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday on
a permanent injunction to force Big Bend National Park rangers to allow
river rafters entry into the park to conduct river charters.
He issued a temporary restraining order last week giving four rafting
companies access to the park on Texas Highway 118, allowing them to
exercise their Incidental Business Permits to operate their river
rafting businesses without retaliation from the Park Service.
Attorneys for the Environmental & Natural Resources Division of the U.S.
Department of Justice filed an appeal of the temporary restraining order
to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday.
Rafters argued that the park shutdown, which closed all roads, violated
their civil rights. They said their charters are self-contained,
including disposal of human waste and trash, and they do not require any
help from park rangers, who are rarely spotted on patrol during raft
trips down the Rio Grande.
Park personnel said allowing anyone access to the park is a violation of
the shutdown order.
Such civil hearings would be affected by a full shutdown of the courts.
Judge Furgeson said the partial government shutdown may have affected
furniture delivery to the new Pecos courthouse, which opened the first
week in December with furnishings from the old courthouse.
While some new furniture has been delivered, Judge Furgeson said some
will arrive throughout February.
"We have re-scheduled the grand opening for March 15 to allow time to
get it all set up," he said.
Chief Judge Harry Lee Hudspeth has approved the March 15 date, and all
10 judges for the Western District of Texas are expected to attend.
A formal proceeding in the district courtroom will officially dedicate
the building, and tours will be conducted thereafter to allow citizens
of the 10-county Pecos Division to see their new facility, he said.
Unlike U.S. Bureau of Prisons guards, correctional officers at the
Reeves County Detnetion Center are on the payroll, despite budget
problems in Washington D.C.
Prison guards are among "essential" federal employees ordered to stay on
the job despite a furlough that began Dec. 16 that stopped their pay
until a budget is adopted.
County auditor Lynn Owens said he received the December payment from the
BOP for federal inmates housed at the RCDC during November.
"The check was about 10 days late, but they paid us interest," Owens
A check from the Department of the Treasury for U.S. Marshals inmates
housed at Reeves County Jail arrived on time, he said.
The Treasury is one department that has been funded in the budget battle
between Congress and President Bill Clinton. Funds to operate the
judiciary will last until Jan. 21, then those employees will be required
to work without pay.
District Judge Royal Furgeson has a docket scheduled for the Pecos
courtroom on Monday, and marshals are preparing to move prisoners for
their pleas or sentencings.
While non-essential furloughed government employees who are waiting at
home for the budget standoff in Washington to end, John Eberle is one of
the 480,000 who must continue reporting to work each day without pay.
On top of that, he works at a federal prison.
``We are putting our lives on the line every day to keep inmates under
control and for what? For nothing. Morale is terrible,'' said Eberle,
who works at the federal lockup in Bastrop and is struggling to feed his
wife and three children.
Employees at federal prisons across the state echoed Eberle's sentiments
in varying tones. Paychecks arriving this week were half of their normal
amounts, or less, as the partial government shutdown reached its 20th
Those checks covered work up until Dec. 16, when the shutdown began. If
no progress is made in the budget talks, employees fear there may not be
any checks next payday.
Unable to qualify for unemployment assistance or food stamps, most
workers deemed ``essential'' by the government can't find jobs on the
side to help pay bills because they must continue reporting for duty
Employees say they've been promised their back income once the budget
standoff is resolved. But that is of little consolation to the families
struggling now to pay their rent, utilities and food expenses.
``There could be a time in the very near future where some of our
employees won't have enough money for gas to keep coming to work,'' said
Eberle, who works as a prison construction foreman and helps
rehabilitate inmates by teaching them building skills.
Eberle said work at a federal prison isn't something that is done out
love for the job.
``The only thing that keeps me here is the retirement plan and the
benefits,'' said Eberle, who has worked at the Bastrop lockup, 45 miles
southeast of Austin, for the past 10 years.
Ray Hooker, executive assistant at La Tuna Federal Correctional
Institution, a low-security prison in Anthony, near El Paso, said
employees are trying to make the best of it.
``We all joke with each other about working for free,'' Hooker said. ``I
would expect that the morale would go down significantly if they don't
pass something in time for our next paycheck.''
Brad Wiggins, executive assistant at the low-security Big Spring Federal
Correctional Institution, said employees were warned as far back as
September that they might suffer reduced pay.
To help soften the blow, local banks and credit unions in Big Spring are
offering interest-free loans and other special accommodations to temper
the financial pinch.
``Our staff realized there was a possibility they couldn't meet the
mortgage or utilities or rent,'' said Wiggins, whose wife works for the
Veterans Administration hospital in Big Spring and is finding her pay
``Our staff is just like every one else ... living payday to payday.''
In Texas, 1,200 federal employees who have been furloughed during the
partial government shutdown have filed initial claims for unemployment
insurance benefits, said Mike Sheridan of the Texas Workforce
If Congress returns the furloughed employees to their jobs with back
pay, those who received unemployment benefits would have to return those
funds to the commission, Sheridan said.
NationsBank Corp. on Wednesday announced a series of measures to ease
the financial burden of their customers who are furloughed government
workers. NationsBank will forgo collection on all consumer loans for 30
days upon request and waive any past due fees.
Non-essential federal employees are complaining that they received only
partial pay for December.
"Big deal," say essential law enforcement officers who have been working
without pay since Dec. 16.
Since the U.S. Department of Justice has not been funded, local deputy
marshals and Border Patrol agents are among employees on the job but off
Bureau of Prisons guards are also working without pay. But such
"essential" employees will be paid when Congress and President Bill
Clinton agree on a budget that will fund the DOJ.
Non-essential employees may or may not be paid for the time they were
Meanwhile, court operations are funded through fees collected in FY 1996
and from prior year fee collections, said L. Ralph Mecham, director of
the administrative office.
Locally, that includes the clerk's office, pre-trial and probation
Court security officers are paid by a firm contracting with the federal
government, and they are not furloughed.
In a memo to judges and other court personnel, Mecham said the executive
committee authorized payment through Jan. 7.
Paychecks for the pay period through Jan. 7 will be disbursed on
schedule, he said, and arrangements will be made with the U.S. Marshals
Service to have court security provided "in a normal fashion."
If funding is not provided to the judiciary before Jan. 7, the executive
committee will make a determination if sufficient funds are available to
extend further the existing funding arrangment, Mecham said.
District Judge Royal Furgeson has a docket set for Monday, Jan. 8 in the
Pecos courtroom, with four pleas and three sentencings.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton on Thursday granted a temporary restraining
order to allow river rafters to traverse Big Bend National Park to get
their parties to the Rio Grande.
Big Bend is among national parks closed in a government shutdown for
lack of funds because no budget has been adopted. All roads were closed,
and access to the Rio Grande was denied.
Texas River Expeditions Inc. Far Flung Adventures Inc., Big Bend River
Tours Inc. and Outback Expeditions Inc. filed the motion Wednesday, and
Judge Bunton held a hearing in Midland Thursday afternoon.
He ordered the park service to allow the rafters to enter the park on
Texas Highway 118 at the west entrance today and Sunday.
Barricades will continue to be in place at all other times, and
plaintiffs will be required to give park rangers advance notice of their
Judge Bunton also set a hearing to further discuss the matter for 10
a.m. Jan. 8 in Midland.
In his ruling for a temporary restraining order against the United
States of America, department of the interior, secretary of the interior
Bruce Babbitt, deputy secretary John Reynolds and director of national
parks service, Roger Kennedy, Judge Bunton said it appears the
defendants have violated the civil rights of the plaintiffs as well as
violated the fourth, fifth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiffs are likely to suffer immediate injury, loss or damage to
their buusinesses by being unable to provide river charters that they
have already booked, Judge Bunton said.
The park service currently keeps a park employee at the west entrance of
the park on Highway 118 during the hours which the court granted the
right of access, allowing UPS and other deliveries to the employees that
reside within the park.
Park employees are allowed to come and go as they please using the same
roads that plaintiffs seek to traverse, he said.
"For these reasons, the threat of harm to the plaintiffs far outweighs
any threat of harm to the defendants because the devendants are
currently allowing some use of the park roads," Judge Buntons's ruling
"Defendants are further enjoined from impeding or preventing plaintiffs'
use, access and enjoyment of the Rio Grande River, the river's right of
way, the river's waterway, and any or all of the river's benefits except
as limited in this order," he concluded.
River rafters have not taken the closure of Big Bend National Park
lightly and have filed a federal court suit to force the government to
All national parks were closed Dec. 16 for the second time this year
when Congress and President Clinton were unable to reach agreement on a
budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Texas River Expeditions Inc., Far Flung Adventures inc., Big Bend River
Tours Inc. and Outback Expeditions Inc. filed the complaint and motion
for temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the
United States of America, department of the interior, secretary of the
interior Bruce Babbitt, deputy secretary John Reynolds and director of
national parks service, Roger Kennedy.
The four plaintiffs operate river rafting tours along the Rio Grande,
which separates the State of Texas and the United States from Mexico.
Financially, some of the largest months in their businesses occur during
the winter months of December, January and Februry, the petition
alleges. But they are prevented from operating their tours because of
orders issued by the department of the interior which in effect have
closed Big Bend park and the roads and rights of way within the park.
They have asked Senior Judge Lucius Bunton to order the department to
re-open the roads and to restrain defendants from retaliating against
the plaintifffs by revoking or suspending their permits or impeding
their use, access and enjoyment of the Rio Grande.
They also seek $100,000 in compensatory damages.
Federal grand jurors in Midland on Monday handed up an indictment in a
Pecos Division case that prosecutors "forgot" last week while presenting
cases to the Pecos grand jury.
Brett Rolland Poore, 27, of Austin, is charged with conspiracy to
possess and possession with intent to distribute marijuana on Nov. 17.
The penalty is enhanced because the amount of marijuana was more than
100 kilograms (940 pounds).
If convicted, Poore could be sentenced to a minimum mandatory sentence
of five years, with the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $2
million fine on each count.
Poore was arrested in Brewster County following a high speed chase
resulting from a traffic stop.
It was "twenty questions" for a federal court jury who deliberated two
hours Friday before absolving Reeves County, Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez and
four jailers of civil rights violations claimed by four former law
enforcement center inmates.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton submitted the 20 questions to the jury after
consultation with attorneys for both sides in the two-day trial which
began with nine defendants and ended with six.
Defendants Rene Guerra, former jail administrator, and Charles Turnbo,
regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, were dismissed from
the suit after the plaintiffs presented their evidence.
Chief Deputy Fred Lujan was not listed on the jury form as a defendant.
In testimony as an adverse witness for the plaintiffs, Lujan testified
he saw jailers beating and kicking the inmates and told them to stop. He
denied handing out riot sticks and telling jailers to "kick some a--"
and to give the inmates an "attitude adjustment."
No evidence was presented that Lujan participated in the alleged
Jurors answered "no" to the first question: "Did any of the following
defendants (Alfredo Martinez, Danny Nunez, Ernesto Bustillos and Victor
Montgomery) inflict cruel and unusual punishment on plaintiff Jorge
Juarez Ayala as that term is defined in the instruction entitled
The second question was whether excessive use of force depriving Ayala
of his constitutional rights was caused by a policy, custom or practice
of Reeves County. That answer was also no.
The third question asked if Sheriff Gomez was personally involved in any
conduct which deprived Ayala of his right to be free from the use of
excessive force. Answer, "No."
Fourth, what sum of money would compensate Ayala for actual damages for
physical pain and suffering, past and future, and mental anguish, past
and future? Answers, "None."
Fifth, what sum of money, if any, should be awarded as punitive damages
to Ayala against Gomez, Martinez, Nunez, Bustillos and Montgomery?
The same five questions were asked with regard to plaintiffs Ruben
Quiroga Ayala, Jose Herrera Davila and Carlos Sanchez Moreno. And the
answers were the same, "no" and "none."
James Harrington filed the civil suit on behalf of the former inmates
following an FBI investigation of the alleged beatings as 20 inmates
identified as riot leaders were transferred from the Reeves County Law
Enforcement Center May 18, 1993 to the downtown jail.
Guerra testified that the inmates refused to get out of the van upon
arrival in the jail sallyport. Jailers "helped" them out and into a
holding cell inside the jail, he said.
While some bruises and abrasions were noted in medical reports, none
were consistent with the level of beatings the inmates claimed, a nurse
and doctor who examined them testified.
Four former inmates of the Reeves County Law Enforcement Center went
away empty handed Friday when a federal court jury found for the
defendants in a suit seeking almost $800,000.
Sheriff Arnulfo "Andy" Gomez and his chief deputy, Fred Lujan and five
of their jailers were among the defendants.
"I'm just happy it's over with," Gomez said this morning. "I don't think
they will appeal. We had a good jury, and they saw right through them."
The inmates, Jorge Juarez Ayala, Ruben Quiroga Ayala, Jose Herrera
Davila and Carlos Sanchez Moreno, claimed their civil rights were
violated on May 18, 1993 as they were moved from the LEC to the downtown
jail following the "Menudo Riot" the previous day.
Lujan testified that jailers kicked and beat the inmates as they dragged
them from a van and into a holding cell, and he believed their civil
rights were violated.
In his charge to the jury, Senior Judge Lucius Bunton said the Eighth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects inmates from cruel and
But to prove a violation, the plaintiffs must show that the defendants
unnecessarily and wantonly inflicted pain on them, he said.
"Whether a use of force against a prison inmate is unnecessary or wanton
depends on whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain
or restore discipline, or whether it was done maliciously or
sadistically to cause harm," he said.
If the plaintiffs fail to prove that the defendants used force against
them maliciously or sadistically, for the purpose of causing harm; and
that they suffered some harm as a result, then the jury must find for
the defendants, Judge Bunton said.
In deciding whether the jailers acted maliciously, the jury had to give
prison officials wide ranging deference in the adoption and execution of
policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve
internal order and discipline and to maintain internal security in the
prison, he said.
Judge Bunton told the jury they could consider the extent of the injury
suffered, the need for the application of force, the relationship
between the need and the amount of force used, the threat reasonably
perceived by the responsible officials and any efforts made to temper
the severity of a forceful response.
For the sheriff and Reeves County to be liable for the jailers' actions,
the plaintiffs had to show the deprivation of rights was pursuant to
governmental custom, policy, ordinance, regulation or decision, he said.
Rene Guerra, who was jail administrator at the time, testified after
being released as a defendant because he was not served with the
petition within the two-year time limit.
Lujan gave the order to give the inmates an attitude adjustment and
"kick some a--," Guerra said, adding that "that's just a figure of
speech; it's the way we talk."
He was misquoted in Friday's Enterprise as saying "that's
the way we are taught."
Guerra joined his former bosses this morning in saying he is happy about
the verdict. He resigned after being placed on administrative leave as a
disciplinary measure after the incident.
Alfredo Martinez, one of the defendant jailers who took Guerra's
position as administrator, said this morning that he is relieved that
taxpayers won't have to pay damages.
"I'm glad it's over, and let's move on and get Andy Gomez re-elected,"
Other defendants were Victor Montgomery, Ernesto Bustillos and Danny
Charles Turnbo, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was
released as defendant at the close of the prosecution's case Thursday
Jurors deliberated two hours after hearing closing arguments by
attorneys James Harrington for the plaintiffs, and Anthony Nelson, Bob
Bass and Richard Bonner for the defendants.
Federal grand jurors on Thursday indicted two persons on drug charges
and one for an immigration violation.
Rafael Lara-Martinez, 21, of Kansas City, Kan., is charged with
possession of a false immigration document on Nov. 3.
Robert Steven Thorne and David Eugene Dicus are charged with conspiracy
to possess and possession with intent to distribute marijuana on Dec. 2.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to 5-40 years in prison and a $2
Jailers used only the force necessary in removing 20 federal prison
inmates from a van and booking them into Reeves County jail on May 18,
1993, said Rene Guerra this morning.
Guerra, former jail administrator, testified for the defense after being
removed as a defendant in the civil rights suit filed by four inmates
who claimed they were beaten by the jailers.
Attorneys for the inmates rested their case after all four testified
Thursday night, and defense attorneys rested at 11:15 a.m. today.
Closing arguments were set for 1 p.m. before the six-person jury.
Defendants are Reeves County, Sheriff Arnulfo "Andy" Gomez, chief deputy
Fred Lujan, jailers Ernesto Bustillos, Alfredo Martinez, Danny Nunez and
Victor Montgomery; and Charles Turnbo, regional director for the U.S.
Bureau of Prisons.
The alleged beatings followed a riot in the Reeves County Law
Enforcement Center recreation yard on May 17, 1993, in which the 20
inmates were identified as leaders. They were transferred to the
downtown jail at the request of the BOP.
Guerra admitted the inmates were handled roughly after they refused to
get out of the van inside the jail sallyport. But he said the force used
to get them inside the jail as quickly as possible without ny disruption
in the facility.
He said the inmates were resisting even though they were handcuffed and
shackled with leg irons and a belly chain. Their outer clothing was
removed before they were placed in individual cells to prevent possible
suidice attempts, he said.
Defense attorney Tony Nelson, representing Gomez and Lujan, had himself
handcuffed and shackled so he could demonstrate to the jury how an
inmate could hurt a jailer even though restrained.
Refuting testimony given Thursday by Lujan, Guerra said that Lujan
attempted to hand our riot sticks, saying "Let's kick some a--," but the
jailers refused them because it is improper procedure to sue them inside
Lujan testified he did take the riot sticks out of the vault in his
office and take them to the booking area, but said they were not for the
jailers to use.
Guerra also quoted Lujan as saying, "These inmates need an attitude
"That's just a figure of speech, the way law enforcement is taught,"
Commander Albert Rodriguez, director of training for the Department of
Public Safety training academy, testified for the defense as an expert
He said the force used was not excessive, but was necessary given the
high level of danger the inmates posed at the time. Medical records he
reviewed showed injuries consistent with normal procedures, he said.
Steve Perkins, LEC nurse at the time, and the doctor who examined the
inmates after they arrived at a federal prison in Lafayette, La. a few
days later, testified that none of them complained of beatings and had
only minor injuries.
Inmate Jose Herrera Davila claimed a cut above his eye occurred when he
was kicked in the head as he lay on the floor in the jail holding cell,
and that he was covered with blood.
But Perkins said that the cut was a "retaliation injury" inflicted by
another inmate at the LEC before the transfer.
Davila said he was in prison on a conviction for "a small amount of
marijuana," 120 pounds. "In California that's a small amount," he said,
evoking laughter from the attorneys and audience.
Ruben Quiroga Ayala testified he was in a wheelchair at the time, and he
was roughed up by two Hispanic jilers.
"That's what hurts most," he said. "I'll not forget their faces in their
He said the only reason he participated in the LEC riot was so the other
inmates would not retaliate against him. He said he has attempted
suicide because of a severe headache and because of negligence.
"I understand I was a prisoner and didn't have the same facilities on
the outisde, but I am a human being like anybody else, and I didn't
commit any crime," he said.
He said his conviction was for illegal entry while trying to better
Jorge Juarez Ayala, no relation to Ruben, said he has been unable to
work "since I was beaten up by the sheriff." He had done yard work,
construction and "all types" of work previously, he said.
His prison sentence came on a conviction for illegal entry.
Ayala said he was the first to be removed from the van, and he was
dragged into the jail and thrown on the floor in the holding cell. Other
inmates were thrown on top of him, and then the jailers began kicking
them, he said.
On the way to the second floor, the jailers stopped the elevator and
continued to beat him and Davila, "in a brutish way, like animals," he
said. On the second floor basketball court, they were thrown to the
floor, where they were "kicking us like a football, then dragged to the
cell where they kept beating me."
They were transferred to Lafayette, La. the next day, but Ayala said he
didn't complain to federal authorities about the beating because he was
"I was traumatized from that severe beating tht I got," he said. "I am
scared. Whenever I see an officer or police car, I am afraid the same
thing is going to happen again."
Sheriff Gomez testified that he was not present at the jail when the
alleged beatings occurred, and that he left the supervision up to Lujan.
Lujan later suspended Guerra with this notification: "During the
processing of these inmates, you and your staff allegedly used excessive
force against the inmates. I instructed you not to, and you ignored my
Rodriguez testified that the jailers' actions in kicking inmates in the
stomach were unprofessional, but were not against the law. They may have
violated sheriff's office policies, which were stricter than state law,
Guerra said he told Gomez when he was suspended that Lujan was
responsible if he thought Guerra's actions were wrong, because Lujan was
chief deputy. And the sheriff should have done something, he said.
Jailers used excessive force in removing 20 U.S. Bureau of Prisons
inmates from two vans at Reeves County Jail on May 18, 1993, chief
sheriff's deputy Fred Lujan testified this morning in federal court.
Lujan is one of several defendants in a civil rights suit filed by four
of the inmates who claim they were beaten, kicked and thrown to the
Jorge Juarez Ayala, Ruben Quiroga Ayala, Jose Herrera Davila and Carlos
Sanchez Moreno were among a group of inmates identified as leaders of a
sit-in dubbed the "Menudo Riot" at the Reeves County Law Enforcement
Center the previous day.
They were transferred to the downtown jail as a security measure because
of infighting among the inmates following the riot, said attorney
Magdalena Jara in her opening statement in defense of Charles Turnbo,
regional director for the BOP.
Lujan was the first witness called by James Harrington, attorney for the
plaintiffs. He testified that he saw jail administrator Rene Guerra and
jailers Victor Montgomery, Alfredo Martinez and Danny Nunez drag the
shackled and handcuffed inmates from the van into the jail and throw
them to the floor in the holding cell.
While the inmates were on the floor, Lujan saw them being kicked, he
As jailers took the inmates to the second floor in the elevator, Lujan
said he heard noises that made him suspect the inmates were being
attacked. He ran up the stairs to watch as they were being removed from
the elevator, he said.
In the gym on the second floor, the jailers again threw the inmates to
the floor and stripped them of their clothing, Lujan said.
He said he believed the force being used was more than that necessary to
restrain the inmates and that it violated their civil rights.
Other defendants are Reeves County Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez and Reeves
County, along with the jailers.
Weighty matters are debated in federal court: sometimes boring,
sometimes tedious; but often sprinkled with lighter moments.
One lighter moment occurred at docket call Monday when Cornelius Loewen,
a Mennonite living in Mexico, was scheduled to appear for sentencing on
a marijuana possession conviction.
Loewen's attorney, Mike Barclay of Alpine, answered docket call with
"On Saturday last I received a call from a man who said he was
"Now John was concerned about what could be done now that Corny was
"So I begged and pleaded, cajoled and threatened for someone to tell
Corny the facts.
"For if he failed to appear, I made it quite clear, it would result in
the fall of the ax.
"Now here I stand without a corpus, but I guess that's better than rigor
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton smiled at the poetry, but frowned on
Loewen's absence and ordered a warrant for his arrest.
"One of the conditionns of his guilty plea was that the government would
turn his wife loose, although she was aware of the marijuana," Bunton
Terry Luck, pre-trial services officer, said that charges against Mrs.
Loewen were dropped and she was released.
"I can tell you where you will find them. Close to Chihuahua City making
cheese," Bunton said.
Three defendants who did show up to enter guilty pleas will be sentenced
on Feb. 5, 1996. Fidencio Guzman-Lopez and Eleuterio Zubia-Melendez
pleaded guilty to immigration violations. Richard Arne Yerxa pleaded
guilty to possession with intent to possess marijuana on Aug. 11.
The first of four civil trials got underway after the noon sentencings.
Billy "Bubba" Doyle of Houston testified that Clay McKinney threatened
to shoot his kneecaps off if he failed to complete a drug transaction in
When Doyle and two friends drove to Monahans from Duncanville to pick up
200 pounds of marijuana as a payoff for setting up a drug deal, all
three were arrested and charged with marijuana possession.
Doyle was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 50 years in state
prison. Judge Bunton ordered him released in 1992 on a writ of habeas
corpus. He was re-tried twice in Lubbock, resulting in one mistrial and
a second conviction.
He is now on parole and claims Ward County and McKinney owe him $60
million for his trouble.
John Osborne and Diane Marshall of Houston represent Doyle. Richard
Bonner represents Ward County, and Mike Barclay represents McKinney.
Testifying this morning were Doyle's co-defendant, James Munn Johnson of
Duncalville; 143rd District Judge Bob Parks, District Attorney John
Stickels, Ted Painter, former Monahans attorney, and Hal Upchurch,
former D.A. now in private practice in Odessa; and Sandy Repke of
Dallas, Doyle's mother.
The trial is expected to close today. Wednesday's docket has Ayala vs.
Gomez and Reeves County scheduled for 9 a.m.
Senior Judge Lucius Deshae Bunton III opened his first docket call in
the new federal courthouse this morning with his customary humor but a
touch of emotion in his voice.
Apologizing for being a few minutes late for the 9 a.m. docket call,
Judge Bunton said, "It is so pretty in my chambers, it took my breath
away. I was afraid I would come in here and couldn't say anything."
Before court, he was right at home in his new chambers as he looked for
a place to hang an 1890 photograph of his grandfather, Lucius Deshae
Bunton, at work on the Bunton ranch near Marfa.
"We have waited a long time for this occasion," he told a large audience
of civil litigants, criminal defendants, attorneys and witnesses
involved in four civil trials, three guilty pleas to criminal charges,
two probation violation hearings and three sentencings.
"We are happy that the government saw fit to build this fine courthouse
in this wonderful city," he said. "We welcome you to docket call."
As Kathy Long read the docket, attorneys responded for their clients and
Jan Bonner answered for the government on criminal cases.
The first civil case on the docket was a $60 million damage suit styled
Bubba Doyle vs. Ward County and Clay McKinney.
Doyle's attorney, John Osborne of Houston, said he expected the trial to
last three days.
"Are you a betting man?" asked Judge Bunton, who is infamous for his
"I don't think it is going to take us three days. God hasn't given me
that much time here on earth. I can't have several three-day trials this
week," he said.
Richard Bonner, representing Ward County, said he won't need three days.
"We don't anticipate lingering," he said.
Jury selection in that case began at 10 a.m., with two others to follow
if all the jurors showed up. Deputy District Clerk Karen White said at
9:30 a.m. that only 33 had arrived, since they were all new to jury
service and had trouble finding the courthouse.
John Stickels announced "not ready" for trial in Ayala etal vs. Gomez
etal, a suit filed by four former inmates of the Reeves County Detention
The inmates allege they were beaten by jailers in the downtown jail
following the "Menudo Riot" in the LEC recreation yard on May 17, 1993.
Leaders in that riot were transferred to the downtown jail the next day
for added security.
Tony Nelson represents Sheriff Arnulfo "Andy" Gomez and his chief
deputy, Fred Lujan.
Bob Bass represents Reeves County. John Stickels, who represents Rene
Guerra, former jail supervisor, said he is not ready for trial.
"This is the first time I have ever done this," Stickels said,
explaining that he had been unable to obtain depositions from two of the
plaintiffs. And, since Guerra was only served with a copy of the
petition on Nov. 19, Stickels said he has not had sufficient time to
adequately prepare for trial.
Judge Bunton refused to sever or continue the trial. He said the
plaintiffs were present this morning, and Stickels could take their
"I have one small problem," Stickels said. "I am subpoenaed on the Doyle
"We won't make you take depositions while you are testifying," Bunton
Attorneys estimated the trial would take three days, "full size," but
Bunton said that might be a problem with four jury trials in one week,
plus a bench trial.
"We will finish all three of these cases this week, and tht means we may
be breaking in this courthouse like it ought to be broken in and have a
few night session," Bunton said.
Federal court jurors on Thursday found that Wal-Mart employees did not
refuse to allow a bystander to administer CPR to a dying man in the
Pecos store two years ago and that Perry Williams' death was not caused
by their negligence.
Williams children, Perry Williams Jr. and Virginia Pendleton, had sued
Wal-Mart, claiming that when their 70-year-old father collapsed on Nov.
9, 1993, Pamela Machuca Dominguez offered to attempt resuscitation.
Dominguez testified that she was certified in CPR and offered to help.
However, several Wal-Mart employees testified they did not see Dominguez
at the scene and they did not prevent her from helping.
Williams had a history of heart disease and died of ventricular
fibrillation, a disruption of electrical impulses that make the heart
Sparks Veasey, a Lubbock pathologist, testified that a person
experiencing the problems Williams had when he collapsed would almost
surely die without immediate help. He said CPR may have helped if
administered within the first few minutes of the collapse, but without
an autopsy, it would be impossible to determine for sure.
Emergency Medical Technician Richard Thorp testified he arrived at
Wal-Mart between two and three minutes after the 9-1-1- call. When Pecos
Ambulance Service chief Susan Starck arrived two minutes later, she
Doctors at Reeves County Hospital worked with Williams for 40 minutes
pronouncing him dead.
Abner Burnett of Odessa represented the plaintiffs, and Richard Bonner
of El Paso defended Wal-Mart before U.S. Magistrate Louis Guirola Jr.
The civil trial was the first in the new federal courthouse.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton has three civil trials on the docket for next
week, including Bubba Doyle vs. Ward County et al, Ayala etal vs. Andy
Gomez and Reeves County; and LULAC vs. Fort Davis ISD.
Ysleta del Sur Pueble vs. State of Texas was continued.
Perry Williams Sr. died of a massive heart attack at Wal-Mart Nov. 9,
1993, and a pathologist believes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
would likely not have saved him, two lawyers said in federal court this
Williams' children, Perry Williams Jr. and Virginia Pendleton, sued
Wal-Mart for negligence, claiming a Wal-Mart employee prevented a
bystander from performing CPR immediately after Williams fell to the
floor on his face.
Pamela Machuca Dominguez, a former Wal-Mart employee, will testify that
she was a customer in the store that morning, that she was certified to
perform CPR, and that she offered to do so, said Abner Burnett,
representing the plaintiffs.
But defense attorney Richard Bonner said several Wal-Mart employees will
testify they did not see Dominguez and that she did not offer to perform
CPR. He said that Dominguez's certification in CPR had lapsed.
Wal-Mart employees called 9-1-1 immediately after Williams collapsed,
and first responder Richard Thorp arrived at the scene in about 2½
minutes, Bonner said.
Pecos Ambulance Service chief Susan Starck arrived five minutes after
the initial call, and she and Thorp administered CPR at the store and
enroute to Reeves County Hospital, Bonner said.
Doctors at the hospital continued resuscitation efforts for 40 minutes
before pronouncing Williams dead of ventricular fibrillation (disruption
of electrical impulses that make the heart beat).
U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Guirola Jr. of Midland is presiding for the
jury trial, which is expected to continue through Wednesday.
Seven jurors were chosen from among 19 summoned for the first trial in
the new federal courthouse at 410 S. Cedar St.
The panel was impressed by the courthouse.
Robert McClintock of Sierra Blanca said, "I think it is marvelous; a
splendid piece of work and workmanship."
Asked about negative publicity about the building being waste of
taxpayer's money, McClintock said he heard Tom Brokaw's report on NBC
"I don't believe it is a waste of money, considering where the money
came from," he said. I think the idea of forfeiture funds being used
rather than tax funds is good. That's what I have been led to
Lucila Valenzuela of Pecos said the building is "so nice. It is just so
nice that here in Pecos we have it."
She didn't hear the negative report on ABC's Nightline, and is glad she
"Who gives the people the right to run down something whey they don't
know the needs?" she said. "They give all this negative publicity
without knowing the people here; without knowing the geographical area;
without knowing the real people involved, the people that are going to
come in here."
Valenzuela said she has heard Senior Judge Lucius Bunton criticized for
pushing for the building's construction.
"I think he is a wonderful judge," she said.
Questions raised in the first trial to be held in the new federal
courthouse in Pecos may set a precedent for "Good Samaritan" cases
throughout the country.
Perry Williams Jr. and Virginia Pendleton are suing Wal-Mart for
negligence in the death of their father, Perry Williams Sr.
The elder Williams apparently suffered a heart attack and fell face down
in Wal-Mart on Nov. 9, 1993. Efforts to resuscitate him were
Some medical records on file with the court show Williams to be a black
male, age 70. He was suffering from congestive heart failure, the
Williams' children allege that a Wal-Mart employee refused to allow a
customer to attempt to resuscitate him before the ambulance arrived.
Ambulance attendants applied suction, CPR and intubation.
When he arrived at Reeves County Hospital, emergency room personnel
applied CPR for 40 minutes with no response, records show.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Guirola Jr. will preside for the trial
before a six-person jury.
Court personnel are busy today receiving new furniture and placing files
on the shelves in their new quarters. Their move from the old courthouse
was completed Saturday.
"It's wonderful!" said Karen White, deputy district clerk of her large
office. With at least four times the space as her old office, the
quarters are already beginning to look crowded.
White has a private office with a view of the front counter so she can
see when customers come in. "Maybe I can get some work done now," she
Jamie Weatherman's desk, with new computer and printer, are in the outer
"It is wonderful to have an actual desk," she said. She has used a small
table in the file room, which she shared with Johnny Terrazas.
Terrazas, deputy clerk for Judge Guirola, has an office by himself for
the first time. He had elbowed district court files along one wall, law
books on another, a copy machine and fax, and Weatherman's small table.
"It feels great," he said. "I feel like I don't have enough shelf space.
We are a little short on furniture."
Records are stored in a file room, and a vault stores evidence and files
closed to the public.
Deputy Marshal Billy Johnson said the best part is the security the new
"It is a very safe and secure place to work, as far as prisoners and
everything," he said. "We can hold and move prisoners without them
coming in contact with the public."
In the old office, prisoners were brought in through the post office
lobby, taken to the second floor and down the hall to the marshal's
office holding cell.
Often the halls were lined with prospective jurors, witnesses and law
enforcement officers involved in cases involving the prisoners.
"It was so nice to walk into this new building this morning," said
marshal secretary Carolyn Baker. "I was very pleased."
She noted that lights in unused offices go on and off automatically. And
the temperature is the same throughout the building, with no hot and
cold spots like the post office.
Former sheriff's deputy Gary Ingram took his place in the front lobby
this morning to check out everyone entering the building. He will work
with Steve Balog, J.C. White and Jim Smith as court security officers.
Ingram retired in 1989 after 42 years in law enforcement. He said it is
good to be back in harness - although he has kept his hand in teaching
law enforcement courses and defensive driving.
Balog enlisted Ingram, J.C. White and Jim Smith, former Border Patrol
"Me and Balog had ESP working," White said. I had been thinking about
coming down and asking if they were going to put on ny security. While I
was thinking, he called me up and asked if I would be interested in this
job. So I said yes, I had been thinking about it."
Smith has spent his nine years of retirement doing some insurance
underwriting inspections and traveling to visit grandchildren.
"It feels real good to be back to work," he said. "I am pleased to be
associated with the U.S. Marshal because they are a good outfit."
All three speak fluent Spanish, as does Balog. Many of the criminal
defendants are Mexican citizens, and they and their families often speak
Magda Montes, court interpreter, had not seen her new office, preferring
to wait until the move was complete. She was absent today with an
injured foot from having a desk dropped on it during the move from her
Probation and pre-trial services have large offices, but no furniture
had arrived by mid-morning today. They are still operating out of their
old offices in the Executive Center.
Friday is move-in day for federal courthouse staff who will occupy the
new quarters at 410 S. Cedar Street.
Jay Crawford, project manager for Dominion Leasing, said he is pleased
that construction was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
Dominion will lease the building to the federal government.
Local realtor Steve Armstrong is building manager for Dominion.
Because it is privately owned, the courthouse will go on local tax rolls
Jan. 1, 1996, said Carol King Markham, chief appraiser for the Reeves
County Appraisal District.
If the estimated $4 million valuation stands, the property would
generate $121,234 in taxes for the city of Pecos, Reeves County, Reeves
County Hospital District and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD at present rates,
Since income taxes collected throughout the United States will be used
to pay the $700,000 annual lease payment to Dominion, local taxpayers'
pro-rata share will be minimal.
General Service Administration officials have accepted the building for
occupancy, and vendors are installing telephones and security equipment.
Deputy Marshal Billy Johnson is overseeing installation, and court
security officers are stationed in the building to ensure that only
authorized personnel are admitted.
Steve Balog, lead court security officer, said he has enlisted the help
of former law enforcement officers to complete the permanent CSO staff.
J.C. White, a retired U.S. Border Patrolman, and former Alpine Police
Chief Jim Smith are on duty this week. Gary Ingram, retired chief deputy
sheriff for Reeves County, will come on board Monday. All three speak
fluent Spanish and will be an asset in the 41,000-square-foot building,
Balog helped the marshal staff pack records and small items this week in
preparation for Friday's move. He said movers provided cardboard boxes
and color-coded labels so they will know which office to put the cartons
Deputy District Clerk Karen White, Jamie Weatherman and Johnny Terrazas
are packing all the files and evidence in the clerk's office. They are
looking forward to vacating their cramped quarters to occupy a spacious
office with all-new furnishings.
Others moving over the weekend will be the probation and pre-trial
services staffs, which are located in the Executive Center on Oak Street.
Crawford said the building's exterior complements the U.S. Post Office
and Reeves County Courthouse.
"I think the architecture blends in well with the two other buildings to
complete the triangle," he said. "We used the same architectural
elements - similar color brick and clay roof tile - to have it blend in."
Spires between the windows on the front give the building a Texas
flavor, he said.
"I really like the colors Judge Bunton picked for the courtooms. The
dark red mahogany stain stands out well with the burgundy carpet," he
Judge Bunton has seven civil trials and several criminal matters on the
Dec. 11 docket for his new courtroom.
Crawford was packing himself this morning to move to southern Virginia
to build a prison that will be leased to the Commmonwealth of Virginia.
Dominion owns six other new office buildings leased to the GSA in Texas,
Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico, including the federal building in
downtown Del Rio.
"Facilities such as the Pecos and Del Rio courthouses represent the
company's investment strategy which favors stability and long-term
occupancy over short-term gain," said Calvin Burgess, Dominion president.
A brief civil trial over a debt and one guilty plea were all that was
left on Senior Judge Lucius Bunton's docket this morning after
continuances and one dismissal by the government's prosecutor.
Judge Bunton was not happy that assistant U.S. attorney Glenn Jackson
decided on Friday to dismiss a petition to revoke the supervised release
of Jesus Jose Calderon.
Defense attorney Christine Kelso had supoenaed a witness who was in
custody in the Winkler County Jail, and deputy marshals had brought the
prisoner to Pecos, Judge Bunton saidl.
"Instead of a Miss U.S.A. contest, we have s Missing U.S. Attorney
contest to see how many times the U.S. attorney's office in Midland can
fail and refuse to come to the Pecos Division," Judge Bunmton said.
The petition for revocation filed by the probation office claimed that
Calderon violated his supervised release by failing to report to a
halfway house as ordered by the court, Judge Bunton said.
Kelso said that Calderon is ready to go to a halfway house to serve 90
days, but that a bed is not available in the Alternative House in El
"He will immediately surrender and go there" when a bed is available,
"I am not happy," Judge Bunton said. "The Midland office (U.S. attorney)
is extremely dilatory. We didn't know until Friday, when it was too late
to stop people from coming here, that they had decided to dismiss. That
does not sit too well with the court."
Midland prosecutors are assigned to the Pecos Division, but the only one
who comes is Jan Bonner, and she has to drive from El Paso, Bunton said.
"It doesn't take much to realize it is a lot farther from El Paso. Which
points out what the court has been trying to tell you for a long time:
to get someone who lives in Pecos and takes an interest in the Pecos
docket and doesn't seek excuses not to come to Pecos," he said.
"I know the attitude of the U.S. attorneys in Midland about coming to
Pecos, and it is wrong. Pecos is still part of the Western District and
still a division and still part of the United States.
"I have reached the point now, in light of Judge Furgesons' request of
U.S. attorneys in El Paso to keep us advised of the El Paso nexus (tie
to criminal activity), I can't get a response (from prosecutors). I get
a citation of authorities from (James) Deatley (interim U.S. Attorney
for the Western District), who doesn't know anything more about nexus of
these things than anybody.
"My requests are going largely ignored. We have the fox watching the
henhouse. Hopefully when within a short period of time we will have
another real, live U.S. attorney that will be interested in the Pecos
Division and who will see we have a full-time resident U.S. attorney."
President Clinton has nominated a San Antonio attorney for the U.S.
attorney position, but Congress has not acted. Sources close to the
court speculate that no action will be taken until the budget is adopted.
Civil trials involving Fort Stockton, Fort Davis, Ward County and the
Ysleta del Sur Pubelo Indians are on the first docket to be set for the
new federal courthouse at 410 S. Cedar Street.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton will preside for that docket on Dec. 11,
which includes two new criminal cases, one revocation of supervised
release hearing and two sentencings in addition to the seven civil cases.
Moving day for courthouse staff is Dec. 1, Judge Bunton's 71st birthday.
He joined a group who toured the new building Thursday and prounounced
"I just was thrilled beyond all measure," Judge Bunton said today. "They
did a good job. It looks nice. There's room for everything. It is just
Every department that will occupy the courthouse was represented in the
tour, with the exception of the U.S. Attorney's office. They found only
minor corrections that need to be made, and Temple Design & Construction
should have them completed before the move-in date.
Furnishings throughout the building will be new, but items of historical
interest will be moved from the old court rooms on the second and third
floors of the Post Office.
Among those are the United States seal, paintings of previous judges and
Civil trials on the Dec. 11 docket include Doyle vs. Ward County, Ysleta
del Sur Pueblo vs. State of Texas, Sandoval vs. Croft etal, Gerry vs.
Lipsey, Ayala etal vs. Comez etal, Seago vs. City of Fort Stockton and
Lulac vs. Fort Davis ISD etal.
Judge Bunton also has a trial docket Monday, with three criminal cases,
a revocation of supervised release hearing and two civil cases.
Baker vs. Kirkland is expected to be a bench trial. Lozano vs. Pennzoil
is set for jury trial if the parties failed to reach a settlement by
One year after the General Services Administration awarded a contract
for construction of a federal courthouse in Pecos, the building is
complete and ready for Thursday's inspection.
Laura Strohbach, real estate specialist with the General Services
Administration, will lead representatives from each group that will
inhabit the building as they conduct a "walk-through" and inspection.
Once approval is given, GSA will accept the building from Temple Design
and Construction and begin installing telephones and security equipment.
Moving day is Dec. 1. GSA has contracted with a moving company to pack
up and move records, furniture and equipment from the old offices in the
Post Office building. New furniture is already arriving.
Jesse Cannon will represent the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council; Senior
Judge Lucius Bunton will represent the Pecos Division; and William G.
Putnicki will represent the district clerk's office.
Others will represent the marshal's office, probation, pre-trial
services and U.S. attorney's office.
Despite criticism of the 41,000-square-foot building, Judge Bunton is
optimistic that it will serve the 10-county Pecos Division well.
"Once we get in operation and get it going, I think it will work good,"
Judge Bunton said today.
Federal grand jurors indicted two men Thursday, including an escapee
from the Reeves County Detention Center.
Ismael chavez-Romero, 31, is charged with escaping on Oct. 19 while
serving a sentence for illegal re-entry after being deported.
He was captured hours later near Texas Highway 17 south of Pecos.
If convicted, he could have up to five years added to his prison
sentence and be fined $250,000.
Jorge Margarito Baeza, 19, was indicted for alleged possession with
intent to distribute marijuana - more than 100 kilograms. He was
arrested Nov. 7. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a minimum five
years in prison and maximum of 40, with a $2 million fine and minimum
four years supervised release.
Jurors in federal court agreed with a former Marathon Oil Company
employee Wednesday that his termination violated the Americans with
Disabilities Act and awarded him $65,000.
In addition, Clifford Harris is due back and front pay in an amount to
be determined by U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Guirola Jr.
Harris sued Marathon for discrimination under the ADA after the company
terminated his employment as a pumper Jan. 31, 1993. He had twice been
injured on the job and had back surgery.
The jury found that Harris was able to perform the essential functions
of pumper when he was terminated, and that his employment was terminated
because of his disability.
Marathon failed to prove that returning Harris to the position of pumper
would have posed a direct thret to the health or safety of himself or
others, the jury found.
Ruff Ahders represented Harris, and Luecretia Dillard was attorney for
Also on Wednesday, District Judge Royal Furgeson sentenced several
defendants and held a hearing in the county courthouse while the federal
courtroom was in use for the civil trial.
Heroin seizures are up along the Mexican border, but U.S. Customs
inspectors at the Presidio Port of Entry report none found there over
the past year.
Less than one pound of cocaine was seized at the port of entry, while
agents seized 4,797 pounds of marijuana and $15,355 in currency, said
Roger Maier, public information officer.
Maier said the El Paso district, which includes West Texas and New
Mexico, seized 29 pounds of heroin, 11,477 pounds of cocaine, 62,072
pounds of marijuana and $1.3 million in cash.
The heroin total is up 8 pounds from 1994, but cocaine, marijuana and
currency seizures are down.
Currency seizures in the four-state area were 31 percent higher with
nearly $50 million seized, compared to approximately $37.6 million the
Heroin seizures rose 11 percent with 136 pounds seized in fiscal year
1995, up from 122 pounds in fiscal year 1994. The fiscal year ends Sept.
Overall, cocaine and marijuana seizures in the four states were fairly
consistent with last year's numbers. The combined total of mrijuana
seized increased by 2 percent, while overall cocaine seizures decreased
by 5 percent.
In the Houston area, which includes Galveston, Freeport and Corpus
Christi, Customs seized nearly $10 million more in currency and fewer in
In Laredo, customs saw heavy increases in heroin, cocaine and currency
seizures while marijuana seizures were down slightly.
Heroin seizures in the Laredo district increased to 32 pounds in fiscal
year 1995, up from 10 pounds in fiscal year 1994.
Cocaine increased to nearly 4,000 pounds seized, up signigicantly from
less than 1,000 pounds seized last fiscal year. Customs seized over $10
million more in currency in fiscal year 1995.
Customs in Dallas, north Texas and Oklahoma seized fewer drugs and less
currency this fiscal yer.
Cocaine seizures in Arizona increased dramatically. Customs seized
nearly 23,000 pounds of cocaine in fiscal year 1995 compared to less
than 8,000 pounds last fiscal year. Heroin seizures increased to 18
pounds, up from five pounds in 1994.
Marijuana seizures were also higher this fiscal year. Currency seizures
A salamander may have scuttled attempts to name the new federal
courthouse in Pecos for Senior Judge Lucius Bunton, who is credited with
getting it built.
Judge Bunton made himself unpopular with voters in the San Antonio area
when he ruled that pumping from the Edwards Aquifer must be curtailed to
protect endangered species living in Comal Springs.
U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio, who would have to introduce a
bill in Congress to name the building because it is in his district,
appears reluctant to do so.
"The judge may be pretty popular in Pecos, but in a large portion of the
district, he's not popular at all because of his unliateral move about
the Edwards Aquifer," said Allison Griffin, Bonilla's press secretary.
"Bonilla needs to find out what kind of support Bunton has througout the
district," she said. "So far, he hasn't seen any letters on that."
Reeves County Commissioners, Pecos City Council, Culberson County
Commissioners and the Rio Grande Council of Governments have passed
resolutions supporting Bunton, but Griffin said she thought those were
forwarded to Bonilla for his information only.
"He was not aware of any formal request being made," she said. "He was
not aware he was supposed to do anything with the resolutions."
An aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said it is not her policy to name
Sen. Phill Gramm has had a long working relationship with Judge Bunton
and respects him, said his press secretary, but there is a long
tradition in Congress to leave naming federal buildings up to the
Congressman in that district.
"We will certainly abide by whatever Bonilla decides," she said.
Construction is almost complete, and plans are to begin moving court
support offices into the new building at 410 S. Cedar Street on Dec. 1.
The name on the front reads "United States Courthouse."
Conflicting schedules of federal court judges have forced District Judge
Royal Furgeson to move his Wednesday hearings across the street to the
Reeves County Courthouse.
Judge Furgeson had a docket set for Pecos
last Thursday, but cancelled when a jury in a Midland civil trial broke
off deliberations at 11 p.m. Wednesday and reconvened Thursday morning.
The four sentencings, one plea and one motion to suppress on that docket
were re-scheduled for Nov. 8. However, U.S. Magistrate Louis Guirola Jr.
plans to be using the courtroom for a civil trial, which could last all
Clifford Harris has sued Marathon Oil Company for what he terms
discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Court records
show his employment as a pumper was terminated Jan. 31, 1993 after twice
being injured on the job and undergoing back surgery.
Harris claims that Marathon refused to accommodate his disability by
allowing him to perform light duty. Marathon denies that Harris ever
requested accommodation under the ADA.
And, they claim,the ADA was not in effect during the time in question.
In any case, Harris is not a qualified individual with a disability as
defined by the Act, the company said.
Jury selection is set for 9 a.m. Monday. Ruff Ahders represents Harris,
and Luecretia Dillard is attorney for Marathon.
Judge Guirola held two hearings and two arraignments this morning.
Movers are in town today making an estimate of the cost to move court
support offices from the Pecos Post Office to the new federal courthouse
on Cedar Street.
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton said the move is scheduled to begin Dec. 1.
Moving could be completed in a few days, said Karen White, deputy
district clerk. She and her staff will be working weekends to pack up
files and trial exhibits in advance so they will be ready for the movers.
White's office in the new building is complete, while finish work is
still in progress in both the district courtroom and magistrate's
courtroom. Each judge will have spacious chambers for himself, his staff
and law library on the second floor.
U.S. attorneys, deputy marshals, pre-trial services and probation
department are among the court support personnel to occupy the building.
Holding cells, conference rooms and a large lobby are provided.
Pecos City Council, Reeves County Commissioners, Culberson County
Commissionrs and the Rio Grande Council of Governments have passed
resolutions asking Congress to name the new courthouse for Judge Bunton,
whose efforts over the past 16 years brought the project to completion.
Judge Bunton, who took senior status on Dec. 1, 1993, continues to
handle much of the Pecos Division docket, which he shares with District
Judge Royal Furgeson.
Furgeson is planning an open house for late January to allow residents
of the 10-county division to tour the courthouse and meet all the judges
for the Western District of Texas.
Winkler County has a policy of terminating injured workers rather than
accommodating their recovery even temporarily, a former employee claims
in a federal court suit filed this week in the Pecos Division.
Chrles Prescott claims in the suit tht he was discharged from a Winkler
County town and road crew on Dec. 30, 1994. He said that he had injured
his elbow on Aug. 15 and returned to work July 14 under doctor's orders
to perform only light duty.
He was assigned to duty which would not re-injure his elbow, but also
received a notice of termination, the suit alleges.
Prescott said that members of the town and road crew are routinely
discharged when they are injured on the job if they file worker's
compensation claims or require a period of accommodation after the
Commissioner Bill White (now retired) said that Prescott was terminated
because his position was being eliminated, the suit alleges.
"However, the position was not eliminated. A young replacement was found
immediately," the suit claims.
White also made reference to Prescott's age (55) and his retirement age
(60) and expressed the belief (incorrectly) that the plaintiff's
benefits were just short of vesting, according to the petition.
Prescott said that White made public statements in the press, "bragging
about cutting health insurance costs by underfunding reserves to pay
health insurance claims and that men over 55 are the highest health risk.
The county violated the Texas Labor Code, Americans with Disabilities
Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the suit claims.
Prescott seeks recovery of back wages, benefits, re-instatement, court
costs and attorney fees, plus $250,000 in damages for mental anguish.
Odessa attorney Melissa Hirsch filed the suit for Prescott. Winkler
County Judge Bonnie Leck and County Attorney Thomas Cameron were out of
town today and unavailable for comment.
U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson cancelled his Pecos docket this
morning because a jury trial in Midland federal court was still underway
The docket includes one motion to suppress evidence and three
Senior Judge Lucius Bunton was in fine form for the monthly docket call
in federal court Monday and today, accepting three guilty pleas, issuing
a warrant for a missing defendant, dismissing two criminal complaints,
presiding for a civil jury trial, choosing a grand jury and dressing
down the U.S. attorney's office.
In swearing in the new grand jury, Judge Bunton said the Pecos court has
had few cases to indict lately, because the prosecutors have been lax in
doing their job.
However, he said he hopes to see business pick up with appointment of a
"real" U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas.
President Clinton recently nominated a permanent attorney to fill the
position held by interim U.S. Attorney James DeAtley of San Antonio.
DeAtley was appointed by judges in the district to fill in until the
appointment is made.
After the fiery speech, the grand jury indicted Fidencio Guzman-Lopez of
Piedritas, Coah. Mex. for illegal re-entry after being deported. If
convicted, he could be sentenced to two years in prison and fined
Pleading guilty were Cruz Flores-Serna, aiding and abetting the illegal
entry of an alien; Jeffrey Michael Moore, conspiracy to possess
marijuana for distribution; and Cornelius Loewen, possession with intent
to distribute marijuana.
Loewen and his wife, Sara, were arrested August 26 as they entered the
United States from Mexico at the Presidio port of entry. Drug-sniffing
dogs located 86 pounds of marijuana in their vehicle.
Loewen admitted he was taking the marijuana to Lubbock. In the plea
agreement, charges against his wife are to be dismissed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg filed a dismissal motion for
Shirley Ann Jaramillo on drug charges, and Judge Bunton signed the order.
Jose Ramon Guzman, a co-defendant with Moore, failed to appear for
trial, and Judge Bunton issued a warrant for his arrest. He and Moore
were arrested August 30 as they traveled through Sierra Blanca on a bus.
Border Patrol officers found 116.2 pounds of marijuana in their luggage.
In the civil trial, Opal Dee Anglin of Odessa sought damages against
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for injuries she suffered in a fall at the Odessa
store. The jury found that neither Wal-Mart nor Anglin was negligent and
awarded no damages.
John Green was attorney for the plaintiff, and Richard Bonner
Judge Bunton's next docket will be November 20.
Ismael Chavez-Romero, 31, convicted in Alaska for felony re-entry after
being deported. Sentenced to 21 months, release date 6-16-96.
Arrested 6-16-95. He has 9-10 prior arrests by the Border Patrol all
ofer the United States.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Billy K. Johnson said "We are happy to catch him. We
would not have caught him without the cooperation of all law enforcement
agencies. Everybody really did a good job.
"He was probably headed for Mexico. It would have taken us a long time
to catch him if he had gotten across the border."
Johnson said he located tracks near the RCDC where Chavez jumped the
fence, but lost the trail in the hard ground.
Someone spotted Chavez running south on Texas 17 about 3 a.m. and
notified deputy Floyd Estrada.
"That's when we got the dogs from TDC, the Border Patrol helicopter and
the sheriff's department airplane."
Chavez was located hiding by the railroad tracks between verhalen and
He was wearing a white T-shirt and khaki pants.
RCSO, DPS, BP, TDC dogs and marshals joined in hunt. Pecos Police
assisted at the scene Thursday night.
He will be charged with felony escape before Senior U.S. District Judge
Lucius Bunton Monday when he is here for the monthly court docket.
Indians are beating the Bush with a blackjack in an effort to provide
gambling on their Maverick County reservation.
The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas filed suit in the Pecos Division
of U.S. District Court against the State of Texas and Gov. George W.
Bush, seeking enforcement of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
That federal Act requires states that permit Class III gaming for any
purpose to conclude compacts with Indian tribes for gaming on tribal
lands to promote tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and
strong tribal governments.
Texas allows parimutuel wagering on horse racing, dog racing, raffles
and a state-run lottery. Each falls within the Class III gaming category.
Kickapoos informed then-governor Ann Richards in 1992 that they planned
to conduct gaming on the reservation and sought negotiations for a
However, the talks were suspended while the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
Indians in El Paso County litigated whether certain games would be
allowed on their reservation.
On Nov. 1, 1993, Senior Judge Lucius Bunton found that blackjack,
roulette, baccarat, craps, slot machines and electronic or
electromechanical games of chance were proper subjects of negotiation
for a tribal/state compact.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling on the narrow
ground that gaming by the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo was governed by the Tiwa
Indians Restoration Act rather than IGRA.
The Tiwa Indians Restoration act is not applicable to the Kickapoo
tribe, the suit claims, and the Kickapoo tribe renewed its request to
the governor to enter into a compact.
Gov. George W. Bush advised the tribe that he would only negotiate those
games which are otherwise legal in the state - and that excludes
Texas law "permits" those games "for any purpose, by any persons,
organization or entity," as those terms were intended by the U.S.
Congress, the tribe claims.
In filing suit, the tribe seeks to force Gov. Bush to negotiate a
tribal-state compact within 60 days of the date of the order.
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Copyright 1996 Pecos Enterprise
324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321