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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, June 3, 1999

Judges fight to retain lawyer selections

From Staff and Wire Reports

Local judges were surprised to learn this morning that the Texas Legislature passed a bill last week that would take attorney appointments for poor defendants out of their hands.

They join a host of judges from across Texas who have launched a campaign to persuade Gov. George W. Bush to veto the bill.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is unpopular with criminal court judges because it transfers the power from judges to commissioners courts.

The commissioners courts will then have the option to set up public defenders' offices, contract with outside agencies or continue allowing judges to appoint the attorneys.

District Judge Bob Parks said after reading the bill this morning that he called the governor's office to join his voice to the many others who oppose turning the authority to appoint attorneys over to commissioners courts.

"It sounds like a very bad idea," Judge Parks said. "It is a remedy for a problem that doesn't exist in our area."

Among the problems Judge Parks sees with the bill is that it puts authority to appoint attorneys in the hands of people that have no way of knowing the qualifications of the persons appointed or the quality of work they have done.

"The attorneys in our area, after their first year in practice, do not seek out appointments, but do it as a duty to the court, and at a nominal fee," he said. "I can't see this doing anything but radically increasing costs. The commissioners court has no power to compel attorneys to take appointments. In order to attract folks to do this, I predict the cost will go up."

If the bill becomes law, then Judge Parks said he would work with the commissioners court to see it is implemented, "but it is not desirable," he said.

Ellis said the the current system often leaves poor suspects at a large disadvantage especially in rural and border counties. He admitted he expected some judicial opposition, but he was surprised by its vehemence.

"I understand there are a lot of judges making calls to the governor's office," he said. "But I'm going to do the best job I can of making a public policy argument on its merits."

He said he will urge Bush to sign the legislation.

Bush spokeswoman Linda Edwards said the governor's office has received a number of calls from concerned judges and added that Bush has not made a decision about whether to sign it. Unless he vetoes the bill by June 20, it will become law on Sept. 1.

Reeves County Court-at-Law Judge Lee Green said he had not heard about the bill and could not comment. He said he appoints attorneys for juveniles and occasionally for an indigent defendant who requests one for a misdemeanor charge.

Costs are minimal, he said, and he hasn't heard any complaints about abuse.

Counties pay the attorney fees for indigent defendants. Green said they may run from $100 for a simple case to thousands of dollars for a major felony trial.

Harris County criminal district court judges voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize administrative Judge George Godwin to write Bush and urge him to veto the bill.

"Everybody's freaking out about this bill," said Don Lee, the executive director of the Conference of Urban Counties, which supports the legislation.

Judges and county officials around the state were caught off guard by the legislation, which passed last week and was sent to Bush's office May 28. Most said they were unaware of the bill until Friday.

Teen jailed for grabbing at deputy's gun


By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer

A street fight in Barstow during the early morning hours Wednesday landed a Pecos teen in the Ward County Jail.

"We received a report that several individuals were fighting in a downtown street in Barstow," said Ward County Deputy Ben Deishler, who then went to the area that was indicated at about 2:30 a.m. and found several youths trying to fight with each other.

"Apparently they were just mad at each other and yelling and trying to fight," said Deishler.

Deishler tried to break up the fight, but called for some backup from the Reeves County Sheriff's Department. Officers from Reeves County responded immediately.

As a result of the incident, Deishler said Chris Fuentez, 17, of Pecos was arrested during the incident.

"The deputy was trying to break up the fight and Pecos was called in to help, but this one individual tried to reach for the officer's gun," said Ward County Sheriff Jerry D. Heflin.

Heflin said that it appeared that the incident was not gang-related.

"It didn't appear to be gangs, just some people that for one reason or another were mad at each other," said Heflin.

Fuentez, was arrested for trying to reach for the officer's gun and has been arraigned. Ward County Judge Sam Massey assessed a $50,000 bond and Fuentez remained in the Ward County Jail, as of this morning.

"I guess the judge really frowned on the fact that he was trying to take his (the officer's) gun away, because he assessed a pretty steep fine," said Heflin.

"Anytime you try to take an officer's gun, it's a big offense," he said.

Cable company planning computer hook-ups


By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 3, 1999 - Pecos and Kansas City will be linked by computer within the next 90 days to facilitate bill paying, said Classic Cable area manager Ben Hernandez.

Hernandez assured the Pecos City Council last week that Classic has no intention of closing their bill-paying office here.

"When you go into the office here, the gal will be able to look up and see what payments have been made," Hernandez said. "Now sometimes she has to call Kansas City to get information."

And they have two technicians on duty to handle trouble calls.

Hernandez said that rates will increase in July, adding about $2 to the basic service rate, along with a new Disney channel.

Asked about a possible discount for senior citizens, Hernandez said that federal regulations force the cable industry to treat everyone the same.

"We shy away from that so we are not discriminating against other customers," he said. "We do offer a budget basic rate for those on limited incomes."

Budget basic is about half the basic rate, and fewer channels are offered.

Hernandez said that high-speed Internet service is on the horizon. In fact, Classic is testing for Internet services in Kermit that provides a 500K bps hookup. Telephone service is limited to 56K bps, he said.

Russell Johnson told Hernandez that cable service is disrupted during storms. "It really doesn't benefit us at all," he said.

Hernandez said that Classic is considering adding standby power supplies to keep cable service working when power lines are down.

"When Gomez Peak runs out of power, we are out of TV," he said. "In town, you lose power throughout different locations. You have to understand the system's power drive. If we lose power, we lose service."

Technicians will completely re-do the head end where Classic receives signals, he said.

Upgrading the Pecos system will cost money, and lending institutions want to ensure they will get their money back, Hernandez said in explaining why Classic refused to consider a franchise term shorter than 10 years.

The council approved a new franchise agreement on first reading in their May 27 meeting and will consider it for final adoption in the June 10 meeting.

Summer meals, migrant ed programs underway

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 3, 1999 - School may be out for some, but for others, learning never stops.

Project Smart, a Migrant Summer School Program for children in grades 1-6, will be taking place in Pecos this summer at the Carver Center, 300 W. 12th St.

Transportation is available for those children who qualify for the special summer program.

The program began on Wednesday and runs 2 through July 8.

Students who qualify for the program are those who they and their family have moved from one school district to another, state to state in order to seek work in the following: ranch, field work such as picking cotton, melon, onion or Anchor West processing plant.

"Your children may be eligible for this services," said Blanca Roman.

For more information contact Gome Olibas or Blanca Roman at 447-7202.

In addition, the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD will again be sponsoring the Summer Food Service Program.

The school district began providing meals on Wednesday at the Bessie Haynes Elementary School cafeteria. The program will run through July 16.

Hours for breakfast will be from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Cost to adults will be breakfast $1.25 and lunch $2.50.

Balmorhea ISD will also be sponsoring the program at the Balmorhea High School, First and El Paso streets.

The program there will run from June 1 through June 28.

Meals will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Reserve deputy sues city, police

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 3, 1999 - A reserve deputy for the Reeves County Sheriff's Office has filed suit in federal court against the city of Pecos and one of its police patrolmen for injuries she received last year.

Aurora Balderaz of Monahans said in the petition filed by Odessa attorney Tom Hirsch that she was assisting the Texas Department of Public Safety to arrest a fugitive on Feb. 5, 1998, when Pecos Police Patrolman Billy Hull arrived at the scene and ran toward the two. Hull knocked her down, breaking her arm in at least five places, the suit alleges.

She claims Hull's acts were in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because he was acting in his official capacity as a police officer at the time.

Hull assisted with the arrest of Michael Allen Cunnington, 33, of San Diego, Calif., near Mile Marker 37 on Interstate 20, according to a news report of the incident.

Sheriff Andy Gomez said at the time that Balderaz either tripped or was pushed and her elbow was broken during the scuffle.

City Manager Kenneth Neal said this morning that the matter has been turned over to the city attorney, and he could not comment on the allegations.

Hull and Police Chief Clay McKinney had no comment.

Balderaz had earlier filed the suit in 143rd District Court.

Madera Valley water problems almost solved


Water, water everywhere.

Water problems had been plaguing the Lindsay Addition and the Alamo Gin area, but those problems have now been corrected, according to Madera Valley Water Manager Peggy Cox.

Cox said that Toyah had helped out and had rectified the problem that had plagued them, which left residents in the Duval Road area without any water.

"We've also been doing maintenance overhaul and those at Alama Gin area will have some water by this afternoon," she said.

The problem at the Alamo Gin area was the pumps and new pumps have arrived and will be installed to resolve that problem, according to Cox.
 

Border Patrol notes 75th anniversary 


MARFA, June 3, 1999 - A new flag, service awards and tribute to fallen officers highlighted the Marfa Sector's open house Tuesday honoring the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Chief Patrol Agent Simon Garza Jr. introduced the new Border Patrol flag, which is the agency's first official flag.

The name of agent Stephen M. Sullivan, who was killed in the line of duty in El Cajon, Calif., was added to the honor board of fallen agents.

Congress passed an act on May 28, 1924 that created the U.S. Border Patrol. At that time, 450 officers patrolled the border to deter undocumented aliens from entering the United States.

The patrol has grown to more than 8,000 agents, the largest uniformed law enforcement agency in the United States.

Attorney General Janet Reno marked the anniversary in San Diego, Calif., May 29 by reading a statement from president Bill Clinton thanking the men and women "whose exemplary service proves that `Honor First' is not just a mere motto, but also words to live by."

"As the Border Patrol and its mission have grown, so too have the risks that agents face. But, undaunted by danger, Border Patrol agents stand ready to go wherever they are needed to save lives, protect America's borders, and promote justice," Clinton said.

Garza said that the patrol remains committed to serve the community by remaining firm and resolute in the motto, "Honor First."

Stabbing investigation ends with arrest


PECOS, June 3, 1999 - A reported "stabbing incident" turned out to be the case of a family feud in which one individual got to spend the night in jail.

The incident happened Wednesday, at about 2 a.m., when a Reeves County Sheriff's Deputy was dispatched to the Robert Smart residence, approximately eight miles north on U.S. Highway 285, in reference to Robert Smart Jr. being stabbed.

"Upon arrival, I met with Smart who advised me that he was traveling on County Road 424 and several subjects beat him up and stabbed him and also broke out his windshield to his vehicle," said Reeves County Deputy Michael Dominguez.

Dominguez said that while speaking to the subject he noticed him to have slurred speech, unsteady balance on level surface, bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage about his person.

"He then lifted his shirt and revealed a small scratch on his belly and said that he had been stabbed with an ice pick," said Dominguez.

Ambulance personnel checked him and he refused any assistance, according to the report.

Dominguez then checked the vehicle and noticed the front windshield to be broken and several shoe prints on the inside of it at this time. "I then found a hammer in the vehicle and it fit in a hole that was on the windshield," said Dominguez.

Contact was then made with the owner of the property, Robert Smart Sr. and he said that he did not want Robert Jr. there "because he would cause trouble as soon as we left," according to Dominguez.

Robert Smart Jr., 38, was then placed under arrest for public intoxication and transported to Reeves County Jail.
 

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) No ticket correctly matched all six numbers drawn Wednesday night for the twice-weekly Lotto Texas game, state lottery officials said. The numbers drawn Wednesday night from a field of 50 were: 5-16-27-29-38-48. Saturday night's drawing will be worth an estimated $18 million.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 4-6-7 (four, six, seven)

Obituaries

Apolinar Ramos

Services are incomplete for Apolinar Ramos, 89, who died Thursday, June 3, 1999 at the Pecos Nursing Home.

Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
 

Weather

PECOS, June 3, 1999 - High Wednesday 106. Low this morning 65. Forecast for tonight: Becoming mostly cloudy and breezy. Low around 70. southeast wind 15-25 mph and gusty. Friday, mostly cloudy and breezy. High around 90. South wind 15-25 mph and gusty.



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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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