As most of you know, on December 20, 2016, there was an altercation between Oscar Leeser and Ann Morgan Lilly at Thyme Matters. A police report was filed and an investigation ensued. There was no prosecution of E.R. “Rut” Lilly because the District Attorney, Jaime Esparza, determined that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. The El Paso Times and KVIA have released a copy of the surveillance tape from the restaurant at the time of the altercation. The mayor, Oscar Leeser, has been criticized for calling the police hierarchy to report the incident rather than calling 911.
Because of the controversy and the fact that Ann Morgn Lilly has been embroiled in at least three other allegations of assault, I filed an open records request asking for documents about the incident, including messages and emails between members of the El Paso Police Department, city staff and city council, as well as the mayor’s office. I also requested a copy of the video surveillance of the incident. It cost me $20.25USD in fees to gather the information.
Some of the documents were withheld from me after the Texas Attorney General issued a memorandum opinion allowing the City to withhold the documents they requested be held from me.
I have previously alleged that there is a protected class in El Paso that is protected from prosecution for political reasons. I thought it would be important to create a chronological list of what transpired internally at the City immediately after the allegation. This chronology is derived from the public records that I currently have available to me.
December 20, 2016 Tuesday
Oscar Leeser summons police officers to the Thyme Matters restaurant alleging that E.R. “Rut” Lilly assaulted Leeser’s wife. As per the public information documents, the Leesers arrived at the restaurant at 7:40pm.
At 10:21pm, El Paso Police Sgt. Alan J. Romaner sends an email to Commander Steven Lopez advising the commander of an assault call involving Lesser and Morgan-Lilly. Sgt. Romaner was one of two police officers who responded to the call. Officer J. Valverde (#2431) was the second officer.
At about the same time, it is unclear when, El Paso Police officers, Samples and Sidransky, went to the Lilly’s home on Blacker Street to interview them. Officers from the “Dignitary Protection” detail, Ramirez and Chapa, also responded to Thyme Matters. Sgt. Romaner advised the officers in the communications chain that “there would not be a need for a special investigation and that this would be documented by a report of Assault by Contact – Class C.”
At 10:33pm, Sgt. Romaner sent another email to Sgt. Christine Saiz, Louis Christopher Johnson along with a copy to Steven Lopez notifying them of the incident. He asked if one of the sergeants could retrieve the restaurant’s video of the incident the following day. Sgt. Romaner wrote that Officer Valverde had made a copy of the video using a camera.
December 21, 2016 Wednesday
Various news outlets report about the incident at the restaurant.
December 22, 2016 Thursday
Ann Morgan Lilly filed an ethics complaint against Oscar Leeser for abuse of authority with the City Clerk.
At 9:14am, Christine Saiz sent an email to Andrew Hagler advising him that she had “unlocked” the case so that he could upload the surveillance video.
At 9:35am, Andrew Hagler responds to Saiz’ email advising her that the video had been “submitted as evidence.”
At 11:35am, Sgt. Christine Saiz sends an email to Commander Steve Lopez detailing the specifics about the case.
Sgt. Saiz’ email goes on to state that the video shows that Lisa Leeser “initiated” the contact by “abruptly” standing up.
At 4:29pm, City Attorney Sylvia Firth notified city council and the mayor that Ann Morgan Lilly had filed a complaint against Leeser with the City Clerk.
At 4:56pm, Assistant District Attorney Nancy Casas sends an email marked “Ann Morgan Lilly – Sensitive case” to Robert Nieto, Sgt. Saiz, Jennifer Vandenbosch and Lizette Rodriguez.
At 8:50pm, Sgt. Saiz sent an email to Commander Steven Lopez marked “FW: Ann Morgan Lilly – Sensitive case PLEASE READ !!”. In the email, Saiz writes that District Attorney Jaime Esparza spoke to the city prosecutor and the city “declined to take the case due to a conflict of interest.”
At 9:28pm, Commander Lopez sent an email to Peter Pascillas. In it, Lopez wrote that the district attorney was asking that the case be presented as a “non arrest.”
December 23, 2016 Friday
At 7:02am, Steven Lopez sent an email to Christine Saiz, Robert Nieto, Curtis Hamilton, Julia Inciriaga, Lem Tong and Louis Johnson. This email was marked “Sensitive case PLEASE READ !!”
In this email, Lopez writes that he had spoken to the Chief’s Office and that they had been directed to “prepare the case as if we were going to present to the DA’s Office.” He then admonishes them, “DO NOT forward any documents, information, or evidence to anyone from this point moving forward.” Saiz then adds, “Supervisors, remind your troops that they are being ordered NOT to discuss this case with anyone at any time.”
At 8:18am, Saiz responds that she will start gathering and preparing the presentation for the district attorney on the following Tuesday. Saiz also advises ADA Casas that she will be the “case agent”.
December 29, 2016 Thursday
According to a January 27, 2017, KVIA, news report, Ann Morgan Lilly withdrew her complaint via a statement included in the police documents that were obtained by KVIA.
KVIA reported the statement as:
“I, Ann Morgan Lilly, withdraw my Ethics Complaint against Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso, TX. filed December 22, 2016.”
January 4, 2017 Wednesday
The El Paso Times filed an open records request with the City seeking video surveillance of the Thymes Matter incident. The Times reporter, Elida Perez, also requested a copy of the “audio recording Oscar Leeser has on his cell phone of the incident.”
January 11, 2017 Wednesday
I filed my open records request, W044969-011117, asking for, “any documents, including police reports, emails, letters, memorandums or other correspondence held by the El Paso Police Department, the City of El Paso, the mayor’s office, or any city representative” regarding the Thyme Matters incident. I limited my request to any responsive documents between December 19, 2016 and January 11, 2017.
January 24, 2017 Tuesday
The El Paso Times reports that the District Attorney rejected the assault complaint against E.R. “Rut” Lilly. KVIA also reported that the City Attorney rejected Ann Morgan Lilly’s ethics complaint because it “did not identify a specific violation of the ethics ordinance.”
January 27, 2017 Friday
News media outlets publish the surveillance video from Thyme Matters showing footage of the incident.