Cops’ immunity a given

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Criminals with badges routinely walk away from legal outrage

Hidalgo County, Texas – In a rare occurrence, one day last month a U.S. District Judge sentenced a crooked border cop to five years of federal time for spitting on his badge.

All the other features of the same, sad old story were in evidence. The local broadcast media suppressed the name of the known drug trafficker who contributed an admitted $25,000 to Sheriff Lupe Trevino’s election campaign, though it’s a matter of record for all to see, filed away in the Elections Office in the courthouse at Edinburgh. That figure is double what is inscribed on the record.

Obviously, people are scared to death to name names, for obvious reasons. When it comes to why, the element of where rises to the top of the heap. Wasn’t it the real estate hustlers who said it’s location, location, location that really matters in any deal?

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The story mentions the fact that Trevino’s son, who lived in his home at the time, had along with other members of the local drug task force got caught stealing drug shipments from dope smugglers, then selling the contraband at cut rate prices to certain other dope merchants. They just didn’t give their names, or mention exactly what legal action the government is taking against them, if any.

The story did mention that U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez broke away from sentencing guidelines to give the Sheriff an additional year behind bars. The television reporters featured her words as she passed sentence, saying, “You knew that this person was a drug trafficker,” Alvarez said. “You are contributing to the problem that we have in this county.”

“I’m sorry. It happened. I did it,” Trevino replied.

Well, blow me down; la de da, Sheriff. That’s the going rate, you say. Five years. Everyone else walks away, as if nothing happened, when the truth is, Sheriff Trevino could hardly have done all that and a bag of chips, all by himself. There were a lot of people involved. Anyone with an IQ above 40 has enough snap and mother wit to figure that one out.

And then the big TV station, the government-licensed electronic mouthpiece from the Metromess, rounded things out by mentioning in passing that Trevino is not the only Rio Grande Valley sheriff to have screwed the pooch in such spectacular one-man, one-riot fashion. Nothing to see here, folks, in other developments, this pop singer got caught dry-humping a wrecking ball and Lindsay Lohan appeared on-camera, licking the barrel of a Dirty Harry .44 magnum.

Former Starr County (Rio Grande City) Sheriff Rey Guerra was sentenced to federal prison in 2009 for his role in a drug-smuggling conspiracy. Former Cameron County (Brownsville) Sheriff Conrado Cantu was sentenced to federal prison in 2005 for running a criminal enterprise. And former Hidalgo County (Edinburgh) Sheriff Brig Marmolejo was sentenced to prison for taking bribes in 1994.

A Laredo broadcaster mentioned that Hidalgo County Auditor Ray Eufracio determined that though $1.7 million in fuel costs have passed through the Sheriff’s budget, there’s no way to track the consumption. Moreover, of 5,400 assets listed in the department’s property, about 1,880 items cannot be located. The last audit of the Sheriff’s Office took place in 2005.

From outright murder to highway robbery, and lots of other esoteric man-with-a-badge crimes in between, this one has something in common with all the hundreds of others reported over the past couple of weeks, stories culled from national blogs just chock full of this kind of jazz.

The only thing that makes Trevino’s story unusual is he got sentenced to do time, and he’s an elected official. The cops appointed by Mayors and City Councils usually go skulking down the road to do it all over again, serving under the aegis of the state’s certification commission for lawmen. There, at the next wide spot in the pike, they find a prosecutor, a County Commissioners Court, a Mayor, a whole passel of merchants, and other assorted chamber of commerce goons, who are all too willing to take advantage of his hired gun status. And the beat goes on.

The killers get paid administrative leave while their case is referred to the current term of the Grand Jury, which cheerfully returns no true bill of indictment, and that handles that.

Done deal.

Cops pull people over for speeding, demand they give them permission to search the vehicle, confiscate their weapons and cash money, then drop the charges on their cafeteria jello shaky cases while they keep the loot. It’s an every day thing up and down U.S. Hwy 59, the road to Bossier City and the casinos in La La Land, and U.S. 287, a similar route to the “Indian” gambling oases of Oklahoma and Colorado.

Here are a few more Texas cases that ought to jack your jaws and long for the chance to sit on a Grand Jury where you can ask some tough questions and demand some sensible answers – or else.

Estelline, Texas: The city located where U.S. 287 crosses the Red River is reviewing its police procedures after authorities reached a $77,500 legal settlement with a woman who alleged officers illegally seized more than $29,000 from her pickup and kept $1,400 of her cash. An audit showed that the city was more than $600,000 in arrears in traffic fines that should have been shared with state officials.

Newton County, Texas: The sheriff of this Big Thicket county has been indicted on one count of terroristic threat on a public servant and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He reportedly told the County Judge and others following a Commissioners Court meeting that he would just haul off and shoot them dead if they insisted on an audit of his department. The charge is a third-degree felony.  If convicted, he could be sentenced to from 2 to 10 years in prison. He will face a $10,000 bond when arraigned on the charge.

San Antonio police are investigating the severe beating of a man who was doing nothing more than snapping pictures of an office building his wife intended to lease for her medical practice.

Saint Jo, Texas: A police officer was arrested for official oppression. He is accused of unlawfully detaining an 18-year-old female driver on at least two occasions and following her on several other occasions, according to the arrest affidavit.

Austin, Texas: A man has filed a lawsuit against a police officer, claiming the officer used excessive force.

El Paso, Texas: A now-former police officer charged with tax fraud in connection with a medical billing scheme is scheduled to appear in court. He has been charged with corrupt interference with Internal Revenue laws and 14 counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements and aiding and abetting.

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