Alcala Responds to Criticism

In response to the motion filed by attorneys Stuart Leeds and Theresa Caballero seeking his removal, appointed Attorney Pro Tem for the Hollebeke Court of Inquiry filed a response March 25, 2004. In his response, Alcala addresses two of the three concerns addressed by the Caballero-Leeds motion and conveniently forgets the last and most important one. In the March 24 issue, the El Paso Tribune (link) reported that Caballero and Leeds had filed a motion seeking the removal of Alcala. The motion specified three specific items supporting the removal request. The first specification in the motion seeking removal of Alcala specifies Alcala’s involvement in a Catholic organization that creates the perception that Alcala may not be far enough removed from Jaime Esparza, District Attorney and subject of the original Court of Inquiry to effect an impartial and fair investigation. The second specification specified in the original motion points out that the second Court of Inquiry, convened a month later had already began to question potential witnesses while Alcala’s investigation seemed to have stalled. Finally, the final specification brought by the original motion points to a motion recently filed by Alcala that seeks to clarify the scope of the original Court of Inquiry, which had already been specified in the judge’s order convening the Court of Inquiry.

In his motion, Alcala declares that he had “disclosed to the Court immediately upon receiving notice of the appointment that he was a member of the ACTS group in which District Attorney Jaime Esparza is also a member.” Alcala adds; “I represented to the Court at that time that I would follow my oath in performing my duties and that the fact that we are both members of the group would not cloud my judgment.” Alcala also adds that this is the same way he feels today. Alcala then writes; “he has no personal or social relationship with Mr. Esparza beyond being members of the same church organization.” According to Alcala’s filing, the last time he had seen Esparza at a meeting of ACTS was on October of 2003. According to the motion, ACTS meets on the last Saturday of each month, meaning that this month’s meeting was this past weekend. This raises the question, were either or both Alcala and Esparza in the last meeting and if so, did they have any discussions concerning the Court of Inquiry? Alcala concludes in his first responsive paragraph that he will interview all individuals that are considered targets of the investigation.

Alcala then addresses the second concern, his progress to date. According to the motion, Alcala has “diligently undertaken the investigation pursuant to the Court’s order”. This raises a question, Alcala states that he has “diligently undertaken the investigation pursuant to the Court’s order”, yet he seems to question what exactly is the Court’s order in a previous motion to the Court by him in which he seeks clarification of the scope, yet at the same time he seems to be writing that he understands the court’s order. A further question raised by Alcala’s response is that he has provided “access to records and statements to attorneys for target individuals” and yet it seems he has not interviewed the targeted individuals yet. Does this mean that Alcala wishes to prepare his interviewees before interviewing them or is he just being a nice guy? Would the District Attorney routinely call and share documents with those he is investigating or does he wait to interview them before sharing information? These questions deserve an answer. Finally Alcala writes that part of the delay in his investigation is the untimely death of the son of Texas Ranger Sgt. Hank Whitman who is expected to provide investigative assistance to Alcala.

Interestingly Alcala goes to great lengths to answer Caballero and Leeds’ first two concerns but completely ignores the third, the one requesting clarification of the scope of the investigation. This scope is clearly written in the judge’s order so a “clarification” seems out of line at best. The seriousness of the investigations and the apparent loss of trust by the community in the El Paso Police Department and the District Attorney’s office demands a thorough and open investigation void of any potential for favoritism or perception of possible impropriety.

The fact that Alcala is a member of a Church organization that may be construed as a conflict of interest as well as his apparent loss of focus as to what the investigation is about forces the community to wonder if his investigation is truly a search for the truth or just a set of carefully orchestrated motions designed to quell the uproar of the community? If for nothing else, Alcala’s actions to date seriously raises concerns about the progress of this investigation, this, if for nothing else but for justice, demands that Alcala at the very least requests that he be removed and another Attorney Pro Tem be appointed. The community and the targets of the investigations should have a transparent and thorough investigation as the results will undoubtedly weigh heavily on the community regardless of the eventual outcome.