Is Our Legal System Corrupt?

A request to look into this very important question was filed in District Court yesterday and a hearing was held this morning. On Tuesday, January 20, 2004, El Paso attorneys, Stuart Leeds and Theresa Caballero, filed an affidavit with Judge Richard Roman of the 346th Judicial District Court of El Paso county, outlining their reasons and citing the law as to why Judge Roman should rule that crimes against the State of Texas have been committed by the El Paso Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office of El Paso County.  According to State law, Judge Roman now has to determine if there is enough Probable Cause to refer the matter on to the Administrative Judge, Judge Ables, who sits in Kerville, Texas.  Judge Roman found that there is probable cause and entered an order sending it up to the Administrative Judge of the Region, Judge Ables, who will then refer the matter back to another District Judge in El Paso to convene a Court of Inquiry.

The affidavit, eleven pages long includes 28 exhibits detailing the allegations against the District Attorney’s office and the El Paso Police Department. The El Paso Tribune has run two prior articles (264 and 006) regarding the foundation of the allegations alleged in the affidavit. In May 2002, Ms. Nancy Hollebeke, alleged that two El Paso police officers, Jose Garcia and Albert Machorro had sexually assaulted her. Ms. Hollebeck underwent a rape kit and the doctor found a two millimeter tear or laceration on her Labia Minora, according to the affidavit.  The Hollebeke family filed a criminal complaint with the police department and an internal affairs compliant as well, regarding both officers. The District Attorney’s office declined Ms. Hollebeke’s case on Sept. 26, 2002 citing that the alleged victim was not credible. Approximately four months later, the police department filed charges against Ms. Hollebeke for making a false Report to a Peace Officer. The District Attorney accepted the case and began the prosecution of Hollebeke.

Defense attorney, Stuart Leeds was appointed by Judge Julie Gonzalez of the County Court at Law Number Two to represent Ms. Hollebeke in this matter. Mr. Leeds then embarked on a long road as his multiple pleadings and filings show, to get the District Attorney, Jaime Esparza to reconsider its prosecution of the girl who came forward and reported a rape and to also reopen her allegations against the two officers. Shortly after some preliminary investigation by attorney Leeds, it was determined that, Officer Machorro’s father, one of the accused officers, also named Albert Machorro, is a retired police officer and is currently an investigator for Mr. Esparza’s office. When this conflict of interest was brought to Mr. Esparza’s attention and he was asked disqualify himself, Mr. Esparza’s response was that there was no conflict.

Attorney Stuart Leeds then wrote the District Attorney a letter asking for face time with the grand jury so that he could present the case against the officers himself. The District Attorney’s office gave him an appointment for December 18, 2003.  Mr. Leeds then notified Mr. Esparza that he could not appear on that date and that neither he nor should Mr. Esparza present the case, but rather a Special Prosecutor with no conflicts of interest should be appointed. At this point the District Attorney wrote back and said that he would be taking over the case and that his office would present it and that if Mr. Leeds wanted to be present he would be put under oath and treated as a witness, therefore denying Mr. Leeds his right as a credible person to present information to a grand jury, says the affidavit.

Mr. Leeds filed a motion to disqualify the District Attorney’s office in Judge Louie Aguilar’s Court; the 120th Judicial District Court which set a hearing for January 8, 2004 at 10:00 a.m. The El Paso Tribune attended the hearing that date only to find that the court, for no stated reason, had cancelled the hearing. A letter by the El Paso Tribune requesting information on the cancellation of that hearing remains unanswered to this date. Mr. Leeds also secured a Stay from Judge Aguilar ordering the District Attorney to not to present the cases against the officers to the grand jury. Mr. Leeds was concerned that the District Attorney was poised to take over the cases and go and get the grand jury to no bill them, giving the impression that an investigation had been conducted.

The District Attorney then went to another judge, Judge Guadalupe Rivera of the 168th Judicial District Court and sought her permission to override the other Judge’s Stay and present the case to her grand jury. Judge Rivera allowed them to proceed. On January 7, 2004, Chris McGill, President of the El Paso Municipal Police Association was seen entering into Judge Aguilar’s chambers, after which, Judge Aguilar canceled the hearing for the next day on the Motion to Disqualify and Appoint a Special Prosecutor.

This series of events as well as other facts have led the two attorneys’ to seek for an inquiry into the District Attorney’s office and the police department.  It should also be mentioned that Officer Jose Garcia issued Mrs. Hollebeke a ticket for a non moving violation, three months after the alleged incident. The mother of the victim, Nancy Hollebeke, has stated that the police in question drove by her family’s house after their complaint was made and feels intimidated at this point. Indeed, on August, 2002, three months after their complaint, Officer Garcia issued Mrs. Hollebeke a ticket. Mrs. Hollebeke’s other daughter; Chenoa Hollebeke Chavez Garcia was also recently killed in an unsolved hit and run accident. This event also concerns the attorneys.

The affidavit seeking a Court of Inquiry was filed yesterday. Judge Richard Roman held a hearing this morning and found that “probable cause exists that an offense has been committed against the State of Texas”. It is refreshing to see a judge have the courage to work for the citizens of the community. Judge Roman has demonstrated the courage to protect the integrity of the system. At this time many allegations have come forth and the issue all along has been the perception of impropriety. A transparent and open system safeguards the community against those that would try to ignore their obligations to the community. The Court of Inquiry will allow the community to judge the actions of the Police Department and the District Attorney’s office and once a legal determination is made; those found to have violated their responsibilities, if any, should be tried and convicted as prescribed by law. Trust in our judiciary demands that the watcher also be watched, as no one should be above the law in our community.