Texas bomb probe may turn on trace of lint or random video clip

Posted by Roberto Cline on March 19, 2018 (Comments Closed)

In the hunt for whoever is responsible for four bombings in Texas, investigators hope to crack the case by finding a sliver of forensic evidence or a telling video clip linking the attacker to the scene of at least one of the attacks, in which two people died and four were wounded.

Experts who have looked at previous bombings believe the same person or people was responsible for three parcel bombings in Austin this month as well as a trip-wire bomb that went off in the Texas capital on Sunday. Police have not released details but have said the bombs were similar, powerful and related.

"In a weird sense, this latest bomb helps law enforcement because there is tremendous trace evidence that exists after an explosion. Everything from lint to fiber to DNA to how the electronic parts are cut," said Fred Burton, chief security officer for Stratfor, a private intelligence and security consulting firm based in Austin.

Trace evidence has helped crack other major cases, such as minuscule amounts of an explosive found inside a radio cassette player in the 1988 Lockerbie, Scotland, bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in which 270 people were killed.

A vehicle identification number found on a rear axle in the wreckage of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people helped lead investigators to assailant Timothy McVeigh.

Forensic evidence aside, video will likely provide the key to finding the Texas bomber, said Ed Davis, who served as Boston’s police chief during the city’s 2013 marathon bombing.

"Video has become the most important piece of this sort of investigation,” Davis, who now runs a Boston-based security consulting company, said in a phone interview. “This guy’s main vulnerability is his presence at the site. He’s not sending packages through the mail or launching attacks from afar."

Investigators located the ethnic Chechen brothers who carried out the deadly Boston attack only after releasing photos of the pair to the public, four days after the bombing.

In all of the Austin neighborhoods where the bombings took place, video cameras could be seen on homes near the blast sites. Residents near Sunday’s blast said FBI agents went door to door seeking videos, while Austin police have asked the public to contact them if they have recordings that might help.

Investigators often seek to keep video evidence secret until an arrest, to avoid tipping off suspects. Even so, police sometimes release clips when they need help bringing a swifter end to a dangerous situation, Davis said.

That might help explain why Austin police reached out to contact the bomber or bombers on Sunday to try to discuss what might be behind the attacks. But about eight hours after that news conference, the trip wire device went off in a relatively affluent part of the city.

That may have been the bomber’s reply, said Alex del Carmen, chairman of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Tarleton State University in Texas.

"This person is sending a message of ‘take me seriously. I matter, I am relevant, I am not going away’," he said.

Sunday’s trip-wire bomb was likely a deliberate attempt by the bomber to let Austin police and the more than 500 federal agents on the case know he had shifted tactics, said Burton, who was a counterterrorism agent with the U.S. State Department from 1985 to 1999. During that time, he worked on cases including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

"The kind of person that does this is listening and watching the news," he said. "He knows that he has done a good job in his mind and I think he is going to continue." (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Scott Malone in Boston and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington Editing by Frank McGurty and James Dalgleish)

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Another explosion rocks Texas capital and injures woman

Posted by Roberto Cline on March 13, 2018 (Comments Closed)

Investigators believe a package bomb that killed a teenager and wounded a woman in Austin on Monday is linked to a similar bombing that killed a man elsewhere in the city this month, and they’re considering whether race was a factor because all of the victims were black.

Shortly after police Chief Brian Manley held a news conference in which he linked the Monday morning attack that killed a 17-year-old boy and injured a woman with a March 2 attack that killed a 39-year-old man, authorities rushed to the scene of another blast that badly injured a woman.

Authorities haven’t said whether the most recent blast was also caused by a package bomb or if the victim, like those killed or injured in the two confirmed bombings, is black. Austin-Travis County EMS tweeted that the woman is in her 70s and was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with potentially life-threatening injuries.

The explosions happened with hundreds of thousands of visitors in the city for the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival, and authorities urged the public to call the police if they receive any packages they aren’t expecting. The explosions happened far from the festival’s events, and there was no immediate word from organizers about additional safety precautions they were taking.

The three explosions occurred in different parts of east Austin. Monday’s first explosion happened at a home near the city’s Windsor Park neighborhood and about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the home where the March 2 package bomb killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. The March 2 blast was initially investigated as a suspicious death, but is now viewed as a homicide.

Monday’s second explosion — the cause of which was still being investigated — happened in the Montopolis neighborhood, which is west of the airport and about five miles south of the day’s first blast.

Manley said investigators believe the March 2 and Monday’s first attack are related. In both cases, the packages were left overnight on the victims’ doorsteps and were not mailed or sent by a delivery service. He said the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have a record of delivering the package to the home where Monday’s explosion occurred, and that private carriers like UPS and FedEx also indicated that they had none, either.

"There are similarities that we cannot rule out that these two items are, in fact, related," Manley said.

Manley said investigators haven’t determined a motive for the attacks, but it is possible that the victims could have been targeted because they are black.

"We don’t know what the motive behind these may be," Manley said. "We do know that both of the homes that were the recipients of these packages belong to African-Americans, so we cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this. But we’re not saying that that’s the cause as well."

Special Agent Michelle Lee, a San Antonio-based spokesman for the FBI, said the agency "responded to both events" and was assisting Austin police, who were taking the lead on investigating. She said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was taking the lead on the federal investigation.

Manley said that a second package was discovered near the site of the initial Monday explosion and that some residents and media members were evacuated or pushed farther from the blast site as authorities determined whether it was a bomb.

Police didn’t immediately identify the teenager killed Monday. Manley said the woman who was injured in that attack is a 40-year-old woman who remains hospitalized.


This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of David Warren’s last name, which had been misspelled "Wareen."


Eds: Warren reported from Dallas.

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Preview: Race for El Paso County Judge

Posted by Roberto Cline on March 7, 2018 (Comments Closed)

County Judge Candidates: John Cook (left) Laura Enriquez (middle) and Ricardo Samaniego (right)

EL PASO, Texas – The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the County Judge race will run unopposed in November since no Republican candidates entered the race.

The democrats include former El Paso Mayor John Cook, attorney Laura Enriquez and entrepreneur Ricardo Samaniego.

Cook was first elected as a city representative for Northeast El Paso in 1999. He later served as mayor of El Paso from 2005 to 2013. In 2014, Cook ran for Texas Land Commissioner but lost against Republican George P. Bush.

Enriquez’s website states she has been practicing law since 1996 and has been named "Texas Super Lawyer" by Texas Monthly for the past five years. "She has been named outstanding lawyer by both the El Paso and Mexican American Bar Associations. She is the Past President of both the El Paso and Mexican American Bar Associations. She is the only female to ever be President of the El Paso Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the most prestigious group of civil trial lawyers in El Paso," Enriquez’s website states.

If elected county judge, Enriquez has promised to reduce taxes and provide more help for rural and unincorporated communities in the county. Enriquez would "concentrate on building and improving parks, such as sports parks for children, and other facilities that contribute to quality of life," her Facebook page states.

Samaniego has a vast amount of experience in the public and private sectors, according to his website. Samaniego has served as interim Director for the El Paso County Housing Authority and interim Human Resources Director for the Rio Grande Workforce Solutions, where he was tasked with conducting an "extensive organizational assessment and implement changes."

Samaniego "has successfully overcome challenges as owner and operator of two Sport Clips franchises, with one of his stores in the top 5% out of 1700 U.S. and Canadian Sport Clips stores. He was picked as one of only two Team Leaders to have a Sport Clips inside a Super Wal-Mart," his website further states.

All three candidates two of the most pressing issues affecting the County are the state of the county jail – which has been described as old, inefficient and expensive – and flooding in unincorporated areas outside municipalities.

When it comes to government debt, Cook said it takes skill and experience to know when it’s necessary to issue a bond. Enriquez believes debt should only be taken on as an emergency measure, and Samaniego said he would try to increase revenue in other forms before issuing bonds.

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El Paso Joins the United Soccer League for 2019 Season

Posted by Roberto Cline on March 1, 2018 (Comments Closed)

EL PASO, Texas – United Soccer League (USL) officials announced today that El Paso, Texas will be the next addition to the league for the 2019 season, continuing the USL’s growth in the Southwest United States. The new club will be led by MountainStar Sports Group (MSSG), which also owns and operates the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball. The group is also a minority owner of FC Juaréz of Mexico’s Liga Ascenso.

El Paso is the fourth team to join the USL for the 2019 season, and the second this year after the announcement on January 8 of the addition of Memphis, Tennessee to join Birmingham, Alabama and Austin, Texas in the league next year. El Paso’s addition to the league bolsters the USL’s expanding footprint in the Southwest, and adds another respected, experienced ownership group to the league’s world-class leadership.

“It is with distinct pleasure and great enthusiasm that we welcome the illustrious city of El Paso to the USL family,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “The distinguished ownership group comprised of Woody Hunt, Josh Hunt, Paul Foster and Alejandra De la Vega-Foster add to the world-class ownership groups already present in the USL, and in MountainStar Sports Group President Alan Ledford the group includes one of the most admired executives in professional baseball, whose leadership helped the El Paso Chihuahuas to be recognized as one of MiLB’s most successful teams and to average in the top five in attendance in the Pacific Coast League each of the past four seasons. Add to that the group’s experience in building FC Juarez of Mexico’s Liga Ascenso into a strong organization over the past three years, and the tremendous passion for civic responsibility MountainStar Sports Group has shown throughout its history, I have no doubt this group will propel its new USL team to remarkable achievements both on and off the field in the coming years.”

Josh Hunt, MSSG Chairman and CEO, said, “Since our inception, improving the quality of life in our region and promoting economic development have been our core objectives. We’re very proud to bring this high level of professional soccer to El Paso and to be a part of the USL.”

“Our market has demonstrated the extraordinary way it supports its sports teams, and given the popularity of soccer throughout this region, we expect Division II USL soccer to be very popular,” said Alan Ledford. “MountainStar Sports Group is excited about this opportunity to bring some of the best players in the country to play in front of some of the best fans in the country.”

As part of a regional economic development initiative, MountainStar Sports Group launched a successful effort to bring Minor League Baseball to El Paso in 2011. In 2012, the Group acquired the Tucson Padres, the Triple-A Baseball affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The team began play as the El Paso Chihuahuas in a new, $78 million state-of-the-art Ballpark in the heart of downtown El Paso in the spring of 2014. In 2015, MSSG and a group of Mexican investors acquired an expansion franchise from the Mexican Futbol Federation. The Ascenso MX club began play as Los Bravos de Juarez in the Benito Juarez Olympic Stadium the same year.

Woody Hunt is Executive Chairman of the Board of Hunt Companies, Inc. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Complete College America, is a foundation trustee of the College for all Texans Foundation, and a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center-Houston. He previously served as Chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council, where he now serves on the Executive Committee. He is co-chair and PAC chair for Texas Aspires (formerly Texas Institute for Education Reform and Texans for Education Reform); a member of the Board of Directors for El Paso Electric (Nasdaq: EE) and WestStar Bank; and is a member of the Executive Council of No Labels. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Borderplex Regional Economic Alliance.

Paul Foster is the President of Franklin Mountain Management, LLC. He is the founder and former Executive Chairman of Western Refining, Inc., and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Andeavor, a premier U.S. refining, marketing, and logistics company. He is also on the Boards of Jordan Foster, Vomaris, Inc., Westar Bank, and the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, El Paso Branch. Mr. Foster previously served as Chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, and currently serves as Vice Chairman. Previously, he served as the Chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO). He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Borderplex Regional Economic Alliance, and a member of the World Presidents’ Organization.

Alejandra De la Vega-Foster is the Vice President of Almacenes Distribuidores de la Frontera, owner and operator of convenience stores in Ciudad Juaréz and northern Chihuahua, Mexico. She also owns the Domino’s Pizza franchise in Juarez and holds the franchise rights for La Madeleine Country French Café in El Paso, southern New Mexico, and Arizona. She is currently a member of the Hospitals of Providence Governing Board, and a member of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors. She is involved in Desarrollo Economico de Juarez, serves on the Executive Committee of the Borderplex Regional Economic Alliance and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. In 2016, Mrs. De la Vega – Foster was appointed by the Governor of the State of Chihuahua, Mexico to serve as Secretary of Innovation and Economic Development for the electoral period of 2016-2021. She also serves as the Chair of Los Bravos, and is the past president and CEO of Club de Futbol Cobras of Ciudad Juarez, a team promoted to the Primera Division in its first season. Mrs. De la Vega-Foster also previously served on the Board of the Mexican Futbol Federation.

Josh Hunt serves as Executive Vice President and Member of the Board of Directors for Hunt Companies, Inc. He is also President of the Hunt Family Foundation. Josh Hunt is also on the board of directors of Minor League Baseball’s Pacific Coast League, and is a board member of the Borderplex Regional Economic Alliance; member of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) President’s Athletic Advisory Council; Hospitals of Providence Governing Board; a founding board member of the El Paso Children’s Museum; chairman of the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation Board and Texas Tech Foundation Board; Board Chair of WestStar Home Loans (a subsidiary of WestStar Bank); and currently co-chairs the Center Against Sexual & Family Violence Capital Campaign. Josh Hunt is also a member of the Young Presidents Organization.

Alan Ledford is President of MountainStar Sports Group, and President of Leg Up Entertainment, a division of MountainStar Sports Group. He is a former Vice President of Business Operations for Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, and the former President, Chief Operating Officer, and General Manager of the Sacramento River Cats and its home ballpark, Raley Field. During Ledford’s nearly nine-year tenure with the River Cats, the team led all Minor League Baseball in attendance and revenue generation. In 2006, Ledford was named Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year by Baseball America. Alan Ledford previously worked in professional soccer, helping the Portland Timbers (then a USL club) become successful on and off the field before its ascent to Major League Soccer.

Located on the Southwest border between the United States and Mexico, El Paso boasts a metropolitan population of more than 800,000 people and has been home to a thriving sports scene that has seen MiLB’s Chihuahua’s claim the Pacific Coast League Championship in 2016 and the Pacific Coast Southern Division title in each of the past three seasons. El Paso will be the fourth USL club in Texas and will also bring the potential for strong regional rivalries with clubs like Phoenix Rising FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, and Reno 1868 FC.

Ranked in the Top 100 media markets in the United States by Nielsen, El Paso also brings another vibrant local community to the USL, with a history that spans more than 400 years. The city is home to the famed “Star on the Mountain”, which at night can be seen for hundreds of miles. Originally built in 1940 on the south side of the Franklin Mountains by the El Paso Electric Company, the massive structure inspired the name of MountainStar Sports Group.

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Alabama, Texas, Florida set to hold executions on same night

Posted by Roberto Cline on February 23, 2018 (Comments Closed)

If executions set for Alabama, Texas and Florida are carried out Thursday as scheduled, it would mark the first time in more than eight years that three convicted killers were put to death in the U.S. on the same day.

According to statistics kept by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, it’s not uncommon for multiple executions to be scheduled in one day, but it is unusual for them all to be carried out. That’s because punishments often are halted by courts and execution dates often are withdrawn or rescheduled.

States have carried out three or more executions 13 times since capital punishment was reinstated in the U.S. in 1977. The most recent time was on Jan. 7, 2010, when executions took place in Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.

Four prisoners were put to death Dec. 9, 1999, in Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas and Virginia.

The prisoners set to die Thursday are Doyle Lee Hamm in Alabama; Thomas "Bart" Whitaker in Texas; and Eric Scott Branch in Florida.

Hamm, 61, is set to die for the 1987 shooting death of an Alabama motel clerk during a robbery. Whitaker, 38, faces lethal injection for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003. Branch, 47, is set to die for the 1993 rape and fatal beating of a college student.

The number of executions in the U.S. peaked at 98 in 1999 and has trended downward since. So far in 2018, three prisoners have been executed in the U.S, all in Texas. Last year, 23 prisoners were executed in the nation, three more than the previous year.

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Motion filed to drop charges against former El Paso County sheriff, undersheriff

Posted by Roberto Cline on February 17, 2018 (Comments Closed)

Terry Maketa walking into the courtroom on June 27, 2017.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Less than a month after a retrial for former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa that resulted in a deadlock for some charges and acquittal for others, prosecutors filed a motion to drop the outstanding charges.

Maketa was accused of extortion and official misconduct in the firing of a former El Paso County Jail employee, but jurors couldn’t convict him on the felony extortion charge.

Also announced late Friday was a motion filed to dismiss all remaining charges against former El Paso County Undersheriff Paula Presley. That announcement came just hours after prosecutors said they filed the motion to drop Maketa’s charges.

“From the beginning, this has been a case that demanded transparency. An elected official was charged with misusing the power of his office, and that type of allegation especially merited scrutiny from the people of El Paso County,” Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said in a statement. “Twice juries thoughtfully and carefully considered the allegations. While we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect their decision and appreciate the seriousness with which they dispatched their duties to the court as well as to their community.”

That means Maketa will avoid facing a third trial for the charges.

A victim in the case, Wendy Habert, said the decision to drop the extortion charges "is incredibly disappointing."

"However, I fully understand and comprehend the reasoning behind the decision. Dropping these charges and not proceeding with a third criminal trial does not, in any way, mean he is innocent of these felony charges," Habert said.

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After 14 hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa of two misdemeanor counts, and they could not agree on the felony charges against Maketa on Monday. There is a scheduled status hearing for Tuesday, February 27 at 8:30 a.m. to decide what’s next.


Jurors returned to the El Paso County Courthouse Monday to deliberate the fate of former Sheriff Terry Maketa, accused of extortion and official misconduct, but jurors told the judge they had difficulty reaching a consensus on the extortion charge Monday afternoon.

The judge told the jurors to read the Allen instructions, which means they would return to deliberating and double their efforts to find a verdict. They resumed deliberating shortly after as Maketa exited the courtroom with a smile.

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.

Friday Story:

The jury has been released for the day and will continue deliberating Friday to determine Terry Maketa’s fate in the former El Paso County Sheriff’s retrial.

He is being tried again on charges of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, and two counts of official misconduct. A previous jury deadlocked on these charges last summer.

If convicted of the most serious charge against him – extortion – Maketa could face up to six years in prison.

Day seven of the retrial began with closing arguments.

Prosecutor Chris Wilcox started by reminding the jury of the fact that Maketa’s former employee at the El Paso County Jail, Wendy Habert, was fired without cause.

The man who fired her, Rich Hegsted, couldn’t get a reason why he had to fire her from Maketa. All he knew was that Maketa was very upset with Habert — so much so, that he threatened to cut off a $5 million dollar contract with Hegsted’s company if he did not terminate Habert.

Wilcox brought up Jackie Kirby’s testimony, when she said, "Anyone who Maketa perceived as disloyal to him was met with his wrath." Wilcox said that Correctional Health Companies (CHC), the company Habert worked for, felt that wrath and fired her so they wouldn’t lose their contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

The jury heard from the defense three witnesses who said Habert was hard to work with. Wilcox said there were "100 possible reasons" Habert could have been fired, but not one of them was used. Instead, no one knew the reason.

That fact illustrates Maketa’s intent, and is the cause for the extortion charge. Extortion — without legal authority and with the intent to induce CHC against CHC’s will to perform an act, made a substantial threat to cause economic hardship to CHC, and threatened to cause the results by causing an unlawful act to be performed.

Wilcox argued the entire case boils down to POWER, and the abuse of that power, by threatening economic hardship to get his way.

He moved on to address the conspiracy charge, that says Maketa had the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the crime of extortion.

He said that comes from the fact that Maketa was angry Habert refused to run Undersheriff Paula Presley’s campaign to become sheriff, so he and Presley conspired to have Habert fired.

Wilcox laid out this timeline to prove his case:

Sept. 2 — Bill Elder Parade, when Habert publicly came out in support of Bill Elder for Sheriff. Maketa despised Elder and did not think he should become sheriff. The prosecution said Maketa targeted people who supported Elder.

Sept. 5 — Molatch incident. Habert said one of Maketa’s commanders, John Molatch, sexually harassed her at the jail.

Sept. 11 — Habert documents Molatch’s harassment

Sept. 12 – — Maketa calls Habert the following day, telling her he was angry about this claim and didn’t believe there was any truth to it

Sept. 16 — Just four days later, Maketa has a discussion with CHC to get rid of Habert.

Wilcox said again, there was no justification for the firing, and the timeline shows just how quickly Habert was fired after she upset Maketa.

He asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty.

Then he moved on to the official misconduct charges. He said Maketa was a public servant, and with intent to obtain a benefit for himself or another or maliciously to cause harm to another, he knowingly committed an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official function.

He reminded the jury of when Maketa tried to have two of his employees, Jim Reid and Ray Gerhart, put on the Brady List. The Brady List is known as a "career killer" because it documents anyone who’s had trouble telling the truth or been in trouble with the law.

Amy Fitch, the prosecutor who gets the list of names and decides whether to add them to the Brady List or not, testified that when she got the list from Maketa’s office, she immediately thought it was a "hit list or list of Maketa’s enemies."

When she asked for more information about why the men should be on the list, Maketa refused to answer. She did not add the men to the list. Wilcox said that was because neither of them belonged on it.

He moved to the missing Bill Elder file next and reminded the jury that the file was missing for seven months before an official investigation began. He said, "Maketa wanted to wait and see if someone would talk? Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t set out to create a cold case."

Wilcox finished by saying, "This was an abuse of power that crossed the line into these criminal acts, and we’re asking you to hold him accountable."

Defense Attorney David Kaplan followed up, jumping right onto prosecution’s "100 possible reasons Habert could have been fired."

He reminded the jury of the defense’s witness testimonies — three people saying Habert overstepped her role, made their jobs harder, and was a challenging employee.

He said Maketa knew of this and was only trying to make sure CHC was providing the best care possible to the inmates at the jail, so he had to take action.

And as far as adding the men to the Brady List? Kaplan argued that he was bound to provide that information to the District Attorney’s office and it would keep his department running smoothly and efficiently.

Kaplan went back to discuss Habert’s firing in more detail, saying Maketa often called Chris Capoot, the founder of CHC, and threatened the contract if a problem wasn’t taken care of. That’s because Maketa "wanted things done and wanted them done right."

He reminded the jury of Habert’s supervisor who testified about having to write Habert up.

He said, "This is not Maketa making things up… this is Habert’s superior inside CHC said how horrible she that she had to write her up."

He argued that was proof that Prosecution did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Then he moved on to the missing Elder file.

He said Maketa did try to figure out who could have taken it, but the case went cold when he realized how many people had access to those files.

Maketa decided several months later that this missing file didn’t look great for his time in office, so he ordered people to investigate.

Ray Gerhart was found to have deception on his lie detector test, which is why Maketa submitted him to be audited for the Brady List, Kaplan argued.

He went on to say, "That brought us in here, to this important place, this important room, where justice is served…

A place where someone who spent 12 years as sheriff of El Paso County, was responsible for 700 employees and 1,400 inmates, who took care of the biggest fire in state history and the floods after, who had to do an investigation into the murder of the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections… now, he’s sitting in this room branded as a criminal…

Ok, so people didn’t want to work for him… but crime? Extortion? No.

Terry Maketa should not walk out of this room branded as a criminal. He should be found not guilty of the charges."

Prosecution stood to rebuttal and reminded the jury that this is a case about the "why."

Why Maketa wanted Habert fired: because refused to run Presley’s campaign and supported Bill Elder instead, and because she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Maketa’s commander.

Why Maketa wanted Reid and Gerhart on the Brady List: to make sure they couldn’t get another job in law enforcement.

Prosecutor Mark Hurlbert ended by saying," We’ve proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s not about whether Habert was a good or bad employee, or whether Reid and Gerhart did wrong. It’s about this man and the why."

Jury began deliberations about 11:30 Thursday morning. They took about eight hours to deliberate the verdict at Maketa’s first trial.

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Driver strikes electrical pole in west El Paso

Posted by Roberto Cline on February 11, 2018 (Comments Closed)

EL PASO, Texas – A driver in west El Paso hits an electrical pole but walks away with minor injuries.

The incident happened at Thorn and Woodbine.

Officers on scene told ABC-7 that the driver may have been driving under the influence of alcohol.

No outages in the area have been reported.

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El Paso groom who suffered stroke weds bride in hospital that saved his life

Posted by Roberto Cline on February 5, 2018 (Comments Closed)

After almost two months of being hospitalized with a near-fatal stroke, 37-year-old Robert Valdez wed his bride Alis Romo Thursday in the chapel of the hospital that saved his life, the Hospitals of Providence Sierra Campus in Central El Paso. Wochit

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Robert Valdez used all his strength and leaned on a cane to walk down the aisle and marry the woman he loves in the hospital that saved his life.

Valdez had spent nearly two months in the hospital after a Dec. 6 emergency resulted in a stroke that left the 37-year-old special education teacher at Lundy Elementary with paralysis on his right side and an inability to speak.

At one point, his family was not sure he’d survive.

But after weeks of recovery, Valdez summoned the strength to stand and marry his love, Alis Romo, 32, a first-grade teacher at Thomas Manor Elementary.

It was the perfect wedding for the couple of 10 years.

The chapel at Hospitals of Providence Sierra campus in Central El Paso was simple and small, yet filled with close family.

The bride wore flowers in her hair and a floor-length gown that her mother-in-law had lovingly purchased a year ago. She walked to Valdez holding the hands of two of their children, Robert Jr., 7, and Abigail, 6. Their daughter Emily Nichol, 1, watched from the audience. The couple also has another child, Hailey Valdez, 14, from a previous marriage.

Alis Romo had three of the couple’s four children in their wedding.


Romo said while they had never imagined a hospital wedding, she knew the moment was going to be memorable.

"I’m surrounded by people that supported me and people that helped save my husband’s life so that is truly what makes it the most special," she said.

Valdez was rushed to the hospital with a tear in his carotid artery. On the second day of his hospital stay, he had to be intubated and sedated in the Intensive Care Unit after a blood clot removal surgery.

It would be days before he would be removed from a ventilator and his family would learn the affects of the stroke. His speech was completely gone and he sometimes was not cognizant, with a blank stare on his face.

Jennifer Lindford, a nurse in the ICU, remembered the turning point for Valdez.

"When he came off the ventilator, he wasn’t responsive … on my last night that I worked, I saw his wife Alis walk in and he just lit up," Lindford said. "I asked him to give me a high five because that is how we assess people, to see if they can follow instructions. And he totally gave me a high five."

Robert Valdez, who is recovering from a massive stroke, took a break in his wheelchair after marrying his bride Thursday.

Valdez’s parents Lucy Parks and Eddie Valdez, who are both retired, took turns helping Alis at the hospital.

"We didn’t want him to be alone at any time so she (Lucy) would stay with him during the day until about 1 o’clock when she had to pick up the kids from school and I would be there to finish the day," he said. "We wanted to show love and support and have his family around him."

With the love of his family and the dedicated care of his doctors and nurses, Valdez slowly started to recover. He even practiced saying "I Do" for the big day.

He couldn’t quite get the words out, but he smiled wide and nodded as Pastor Tom Delgado said his vows to seal their bond. Parents, aunts and cousins wiped their tears during the emotional ceremony that marked a second chance for love.

"I feel forever grateful that I was able to not only plan my wedding but that the hospital staff has been so involved in making every little detail so beautiful," Romo said.

Alis Romo hugged her brand new husband Robert Valdez tightly. Romo said her husband’s near fatal stroke in December was traumatic.

Victor Guerrero, marketing and communications manager for the Hospitals of Providence, said he and several hospital volunteers rallied together in three days when they heard the couple wanted to marry.

More: Inside my life as a military wife: A rocky road, but embraced for love

The special evening included a reception with a DJ, who also happens to be a nurse at the hospital. Family and friends didn’t seem to mind a backdrop of photographs of surgeons in the reception room.

Romo hugged her husband tightly and rocked softly back and forth as they danced to Ed Sheeran’s "Perfect" lyrics:

"When I saw you in that dress, looking so beautiful, I don’t deserve this. Darling, you look perfect, tonight."

María Cortés González may be reached at 546-6150; mcortes@elpasotimes.com; @EPTMaria on Twitter.

The bride and groom took pictures with family after their ceremony.

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Border Patrol agents discover 75-foot tunnel in El Paso

Posted by Roberto Cline on January 30, 2018 (Comments Closed)

EL PASO, Texas – Authorities are working to determine the origin and purpose of a 75-foot tunnel discovered near downtown El Paso on Thursday.

The tunnel was discovered after a cave-in occurred as employees from the Texas Department of Transportation constructed a roadway. TxDOT employees brought the collapse to the attention of nearby Border Patrol Agents.

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The cave in led to the discovery of "a tunnel originating north from the international border." The tunnel starts and ends in the U.S.

The intended purpose of the tunnel remains unknown, along with the length of time it was left abandoned.

Any information regarding the tunnel can be reported to the El Paso Sector Intelligence Operations Center at 915-834-8561.

Copyright 2018 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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El Paso gathers in show of unity, sisterhood during Women’s March

Posted by Roberto Cline on January 24, 2018 (Comments Closed)

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El Paso came together in a show of unity and sisterhood on Sunday afternoon.

About 500 women and men, of all ages, joined together for El Paso’s take on the Women’s March, a national grassroots effort now in its second year.

They braved stiff winds and cool temperatures, gathered at Centennial Plaza at the University of Texas at El Paso and then walked to San Jacinto Plaza in Downtown.

They enjoyed an afternoon of music, Native American dancers, fellowship and speakers.

All over the nation, similar Women’s March events took place this weekend to mark the one-year anniversary of last year’s landmark march in Washington, D.C. An estimated 500,000 men and women marched on the nation’s capital in 2016, largely to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

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A group of walkers numbering in the hundreds make their way along Oregon Street on their way to San Jacinto plaza from UTEP during the El Paso 2018 Women’s March Sunday. A variety of speakers addressed the crowd at the plaza.


In El Paso, the event was billed as nonpartisan with unity as the chief message, said Lyda Ness-Garcia, one of the organizers.

“The idea is that women aren’t one uniform type of individual,” Ness-Garcia said. “We have diverse intersected interests that are being represented here. We are a unity movement, and we recognize the power of the people and the power of the vote, so we want to represent those ideals.”

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Ysabella Garcia, an eighth-grader at Wiggs Middle School, called the march an “amazing event.”

Garcia said it was important for young people like her to participate.

“We are the generation of the future,” she said. “We will live in the world that is left for us. We need to speak out about all the things we want for the future.”

“It’s men, women, everyone just joining together and fighting for equality,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative. It is about everyone coming together to fight for equality, respect and equal rights for women.”

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Gina Nunez, an associate professor of anthropology and director of Women and Gender Studies at UTEP, said she was excited and inspired by so many young people participating in the El Paso event.

“What is exciting about this movement is it involved our young people,” Nunez said. “Our children and grandchildren are here. I am proud of El Paso with so many people coming together.”

Grace Flores-Robles, a junior at UTEP, said she was marching because she feels it is important for younger people, like herself, to get involved.

“It not only affects my generation but those who come after us,” she said.

Flores-Robles said she would like women to get energized and make sure they register to vote.

Elisa Morales, another of the local march’s organizers, said she would like to see the event transform from a march to a movement.

“We know that women are very multidimensional and we don’t always agree on all the same things, but we do have some of the same struggles that being a woman brings,” Morales said.

David Burge may be reached at 546-6126; dburge@elpasotimes.com; @dburge1962 on Twitter.

Speakers address the crowd at San Jacinto Plaza during the El Paso 2018 Women’s March Sunday.

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