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2010-01-20 digital edition

Former Willacy D.A. Juan Guerra goes to court in Civil case filed by officials he had arrested

Text: T T

A civil lawsuit in United States District Court at Brownsville began Tuesday morning. The plaintiffs in the case are former Willacy County District Attorney and special prosecutor, Gustavo "Gus" Garza, former Chief deputy of the Willacy County Sheriff's Dept., David Martinez and Raymondville Police Chief Uvaldo Zamora.

Gustavo Garza was appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate alleged wrong doing by then district attorney Juan Guerra.

Assisting him in his duties were chief Zamora and deputy Martinez. Garza was appointed by District Judge Migdalia Lopez after a Willacy County Grand Jury asked her to determine if Guerra was doing anything illegal.

After an investigation lasting several weeks a search warrant of Guerra's office was issued by Cameron County District Judge Janet Leal. When authorities arrived Guerra attempted to prevent them from searching his office. He was arrested and subsequently charged with felony theft, attempted theft and tampering with government records.

Guerra was arrested in March, 2007 and released from jail a few days later. He continued to be district attorney and a month later he persuaded a new grand jury to indict the three men involved in his investigation. Garza, Martinez and Zamora were arrested on charges of interfering with a grand jury which was at a called meeting in Guerra's office on the Sunday afternoon when he was arrested.

All the charges were subseqently dismissed by Judge J. Manuel Banales of Corpus Christi.

In the lawsuit now being tried Garza, Martinez and Zamora say they were doing their assigned legal duties in permormance of their jobs at the time Guerra was arrested and that their subsequent arrests caused by him were in "retaliation".

The trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. but Guerra was not present at the assigned time and did not show up until 10:20 a.m.. When he arrived he explained to judge Hanen "I thought I was supposed to be here at 1 p.m."

A jury of seven men and five women is considering the case and on the first day they watched a video of Guerra's former investigator giving his deposition. Roy Tamez was a bartender at a local beer joint when he was appointed as an investigator by Guerra.

Later Guerra was put on the stand by Garza's attorney. Guerra described his feelings after he was arrested and complained that he spent the night in jail without a pillow and that he was “given a roll of toilet paper to rest his head.”

The jury, mostly young people, listened intently to the testimony and the case is expected to cointinue the rest of the week.

Plaintiff Garza said that he is not expecting to get any financial satisfaction from Guerra.

“Its not about the money -- but someone needs to let the public know what was going on when Juan Guerra was the county and district attorney.”

“Maybe if he wins the Lottery,” we might get some money but that's the only way, Garza said.

2010-01-20 / Front Page

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