As you already know, Naomi Gonzalez pleaded no contest on May 2, 2014 to driving while intoxicated in a March 2013 incident in Austin. She was sentenced on a class A misdemeanor to 15 days in jail by Travis County judge Carlos Barrera. She had injured a bicyclist with her BMW after she rear-ended another car. Her blood alcohol registered at 0.164, more than twice the legal limit.
She reported to jail on May 2 and was released on the morning of May 8. She served six days at the Travis County Jail.
Obviously, you all know she lost her bid at reelection earlier this year. Her challengers, Cesar Blanco and Norma Chavez are on a run-off election scheduled for later this month.
There are three things I’d like to address regarding Gonzalez’ incident.
The first is that unlike El Paso where politics are allowed to subvert the judicial process Gonzalez was forced to deal with her pending case. Although it appeared she tried to delay dealing with it she nonetheless was forced to address it. There is speculation that she tried to delay the case because she was hoping it would not interfere with her campaign or that she was hoping to play the delay game that is so typical in the El Paso judicial process. At this point all we can do is speculate however the more important thing to remember is that she was forced to deal with it.
Although I’m not blind to the notion that the judicial process can be subverted in Austin, as well, it seems that the subversion is much less than in El Paso. Take for example the two cases of Ann Morgan Lilly. Both of her cases involve allegations of assault by her upon others. It seems that both cases have mysteriously disappeared in some El Paso judicial black hole. Unlike Ann Morgan Lilly, in El Paso, Naomi Gonzalez was publicly identified by Austin law enforcement and prosecuted. Gonzalez was unable to hide behind the “it’s a pending case” argument that is so common in El Paso when it involved public officials or individuals with the right connections.
Likewise, Jaime Abeytia, who is facing serious criminal charges and has at least one outstanding warrant for his arrest, continues to work at the county drawing a taxpayer funded paycheck. This is not the first time Jaime Abeytia has been accused of a crime. As I have previously written he pleaded to a deferred adjudication in 2007. For that reason he can legally state that up to this point he has not been convicted of a crime. Yet, the fact is that he made a deal to allow him to masquerade as an un-convicted citizen even though he pleaded guilty to a crime.
The law allows him to do that and it seems that in El Paso, if you are well connected you get to play around with the judicial system in attempt to pretend you are not a criminal. Abeytia has been playing the change lawyers and delay the trial tactic as long as possible in the latest case. It smells like he is trying to game the system to get the outcome he desires.
What makes his case even more egregious is that his benefactor, Vince Perez is targeting the judiciary’s budget while his employee is being judged by them.
How anyone cannot see a problem with that is beyond me. However it is El Paso.
Many have commented that they believe that Naomi Gonzalez received special treatment or that her punishment was not sufficient enough.
I actually believe that Gonzalez serving six days in jail, and more importantly her conviction were more than appropriate. The fact is that Naomi Gonzalez, a former criminal prosecutor and lawyer, served prison time and is now a convicted criminal.
This case appears to be a first-time offense. Many private individuals normally get to plead to a deferred adjudication, especially for a first-time offense, and in so doing get to pretend they weren’t convicted after serving their probation. And they get to avoid prison.
Naomi Gonzalez did not go through that process and even though it was only six days in jail she did serve a prison term. As a lawyer she will always also be a convicted criminal from this point on.
I believe that in El Paso, the whole thing would have been disappeared behind a smoke-screen of legal mumbo-jumbo avoiding the whole thing all together. All in all, I believe Gonzalez’ sentence and how the legal process handled her was appropriate.
And finally, will this affect her future in politics? Probably not.
Consider that El Paso has elected a congressman that is linked to company that pleaded guilty to structuring cash deposits and who, he himself was previously arrested for DWI and a misdemeanor. El Paso has also elected a judge, not once but twice after he was found guilty of breaching judicial standards by verbally abusing women. At least one other judge was elected even though she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated.
There is ample evidence to suggest that Naomi Gonzalez could possibly have a political future in El Paso, even though she is a convicted criminal.
This is how El Paso elects the people that represent it.