Deputy found guilty despite ~political distractions TM in court
Tue, 06 Aug 2013 22:56:34 GMT —
The only man who maintained his innocence in the Panama Unit law enforcement corruption scandal was found guilty by a federal court jury Tuesday.
Jorge Garza was convicted of conspiring to possess, with the intention to distribute more than 1,000 lbs of marijuana.
He now faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Garza was accused of helping conduct fake traffic stops to steal from drug traffickers and re-sell the drugs to split the profits.
Eight other officers charged in the case have pleaded guilty along with three drug traffickers.
It was supposed to be a one day trial and ended up taking six days and focusing more on top officials in the Hidalgo County Sheriff Office, including the sheriff himself.
"I believe the tactic in this trial was to take your focus away from this trial, U.S. attorney James Sturgis said to the jury in his closing arguments.
Defense Attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez spent two days questioning Sheriff Lupe Trevino on internal investigations to campaign fundraising, but in her closing arguments Gutierrez didn't draw on much of his testimony.
Instead she argued the testimonies of the government's witnesses, those who plead guilty to the indictment, could not be trusted, citing they were only in it for the plea agreement that lessens their sentencing.
"All government witnesses are convicted drug traffickers and are receiving a benefit for coming here and testifying," Gutierrez said.
In the end, it took the jury less than three hours to unanimously decide they trusted the testimonies they heard pointing to Garza as a co-conspirator in the scandal.
Garza was taken into custody but will appear back in court Thursday when his attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez will ask the judge to place Garza on bond until his sentencing hearing due to special circumstances.
Garza was appointed a probation officer to draft a pre-sentencing report by September 10.
Garza and the 11 other men who pled guilty to the indictment will be sentenced on October 17.