Sunday, April 29, 2007

Man in jail over 6 months without formal charges

Man in jail over 6 months without formal charges

By Gloria Bigger-Cantu - A man who has been in the Kleberg County jail for six months without formal charges or an indictment returned back to Kleberg County Jail Monday after his bond reduction hearing. Meanwhile a county official wants everyone involved in this situation to be held accountable for keeping a man in jail for six months without being considered for an indictment.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Romeo L. Lomas voiced concern the man is being housed and fed at the taxpayers’ expense.
He said someone dropped the ball because of missing paperwork, and the situation itself may be a violating the law.
The case involves Israel Morales, 35, who appeared before County Court at Law Judge Martin Chiuminatto Monday afternoon for a writ of habeas corpus hearing with his court appointed attorney Carlos Morin at his side.
Morales was arrested by the Kingsville Specialized Crimes & Narcotics Task Force with three other people in the parking lot of a convenience store on King St. near Highway 77 in the early morning of Oct. 3, 2006.
Morales was taken to the Kleberg County Law Enforcement Center just a block away.
Morales was magistrated by Precinct 1 interim Justice of the Peace Ron Lewis.
Law enforcement officials said Morales was being held on what is called an affidavit of complaint alleging possession of marijuana and engaging in organized criminal activity.
Lewis set a bond of $25,000 for the and a $40,000 bond for engaging in criminal activity. The three other people posted the bond and were released.
Jaime R. Garza, commander of the TASK force, said Tuesday the paperwork had been completed on Morales but the file had been misplaced and was lost. Garza said he had not filed the case with the District Attorney Ida Trevino.
“We have taken measures that this type of situation would not occur again,” Garza said.
At the hearing, Morin reported his client had been in jail over 90 days and was entitled to an affordable bond and he did not know what happened to the file. District Attorney Aida Trevino said the state would accept the bond reduction.
“This man has been in jail since Oct. 3, 2006?” Chiuminatto questioned the district attorney. Trevino replied she had not pulled the history of the defendant.
Morin then asked the judge for a personal recognizance bond. Morin explained Morales worked as an auto mechanic in Houston where he lived. Morales told the court he worked to support his family and mother.
“I have my obligation to work and I am a victim of this case and want to resolve this issue and have been asking questions why this has taken so long,” Morales said.
“Where do you live and if you were bonded out today would you get a job?” Trevino asked Morales. Morales replied that he lived in Houston and would return back there and work at his brother’s shop.
Trevino asked the inmate about his immigration status and he replied he had been a legal residence since 1988.
Chiuminatto agreed to lower the POM bond from $40,000 to $5,000 and engaging in organized criminal activity from $40,000 to $5,000. Morales was returned back to jail because he could not post bond and an INS issue that was not clarified in court.
Morin said he had been court appointed attorney on Dec. 21 and pointed to that date on a letter. He filed for application for a writ of habeas corpus on Jan. 12. Chiuminatto said that when Morales was arrested on Oct. 3 he stated “he would be his own lawyer.” Later that month on Oct. 25 Morales requested legal representation. Chiuminatto appointed an attorney for Morales on Oct. 31. He explained that court appointed attorneys are contacted in three ways: in his office, faxed papers or through letters. There is a pool of l7 attorneys who can accept court appointments. Many of them live in other counties. District Court 105 Judge Manuel Banales chooses the attorneys.
Lomas emphasized people like Morales and everyone else have rights because we live in this great country of America. Lomas questioned the time span when Morales was appointed an attorney.
The county commissioner brought documentation from Senate Bill 7 under the Texas Fair Defense Act that states the law “requires a court or the court’s designee authorized under Article 26.04 to appoint counsel for indigent defendants in the county…to appoint counsel immediately following the expiration of three working days after the date on the court or the courts’ designee receives the defendants request for appointment of counsel.”
Lomas became involved in this case because a mother of an inmate contacted him last week to inform him that a man was sitting in jail that had not been charged with any crime.
“Are we going to hold this man forever? Lomas stated. He said this was not the first time an incident like this had occurred and this type of situation needs to stop. He said other people should have taken notice of the man’s time in jail because they receive daily jail logs. Jail logs are sent to the offices of the District Attorney, County Attorney, County Clerk, and District Court 105 every day. He said pre-trial officers also visit with prisoners and could have related information to the courts.
“Once they land in jail a legal procedure needs to be followed if not we are violating the prisoners’ rights and then we could end up with a lawsuit,” Lomas said.
“If everybody in the legal system had been working together we would not have this problem,” Lomas said, “why are we having a prisoner here, feeding him and housing him without any charges filed. Kleberg County pays $57,000 to other counties to house prisoners, according to him.
“We are not following the correct procedure on this case and we need to do what is right because every prisoner is innocent until proven guilty.” Lomas said.
He added there was no excuse for this situation.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Boss Hogg stuck in the Hazard County of Nueces De La Parra


County: Tell us more on courthouse

Commissioners hear idea to turn building into a legal center

By Beth Wilson Caller-Times
April 5, 2007

The 1914 Nueces County Courthouse may be priceless to preservationists, but local developers are putting an $11 million price tag on restoring its legal legacy.

County commissioners didn't offer the courthouse to Judson Partners, a group with a plan to turn it into a law center, but indicated Wednesday they were interested in hearing more from the state and other developers.

In a commissioners workshop meeting, developer Dan Judson presented his plan to buy the building and find the private funds to renovate it and bring in a law center that eventually would become affiliated with a law school.

County Judge Loyd Neal said he'd be interested in any deal that made financial and historical sense for the building that was the site that handled the county's business through much of the previous century.

"We have a long way to go from workshop to reality," he said. "If you make a good offer, we might sell you a courthouse, and I'm not sure I'd want a reversionary clause."

Commissioner Chuck Cazalas said any sale discussion would have to consider value of the land in addition to the building.

Neal said later that he has no estimate of the value of either the land or building and he's not sure the county would be able to sell the courthouse because a deed restriction was placed on the building when the county accepted grants from the Texas Historical Commission.

Judson said that if the county is willing to sell the building to his group, it is willing to put in about $200,000 for further studies to determine what would be the best use for the building that's been vacant since 1977.

Judson said Wednesday a law center or school would keep the legal history of the building intact and two restored courtrooms could be used in learning. He has spoken to some law schools in Texas but said it is too early to say which ones. He has not received confirmation of interest in establishing a branch campus or center here.

He said he's also interested in using the building for residential and office space. While he doesn't have firm costs for such projects, he said renovation and the land could be between $11 million and $15 million and would be entirely privately funded.

"We are crystal clear that you don't want to use taxpayer money," he said.

Commissioner Peggy Banales, whose precinct includes the courthouse near the Harbor Bridge, said she wants to restore the courthouse to "its grand ole' lady style," but confirmed the county didn't want to put any more taxpayer money into its restoration or renovation.

A $2.85 million renovation of the building's south wing exterior was completed last year.

Community donations and county funds provided the local match of $950,000, but in 2005, commissioners declined to put up $1.76 million to match state grant funds to continue renovation. Cost for complete restoration has been estimated as high as $30 million.

Any contract to sell the building likely will include a clause returning it to the county if it isn't completed. Neal said Wednesday he's not sure whether the court would ask for such a clause.

The building can't be demolished until 2025 because a deed restriction was placed on the building when the county accepted renovation grants from the Texas Historical Commission.

Judson said he expects the county, if the county proceeds, to go through a public process to approve the sale and a renovation project, including asking if other developers are interested in any courthouse reuse plans.

Commissioners took no action to approve Judson's plan but authorized county staff to confer with the Texas Historical Commission, which must approve any changes in the building as a condition of accepting state grant funds.

"We will certainly consider this further under the advice of our county attorney and others," Neal said.

The county must notify the state of any changes, including transfer of the building, said Stan Graves, director of the commission's Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. He said the commission prefers historic courthouses remain county-owned, used for government and open to the public.

"The specific idea of using the facility as a law school has a certain appeal in that it would allow the courtrooms, judge's chambers and other major spaces to remain in the use originally intended," he said in a written statement. "Such a proposal would be preferable to something that would change the original structure and intent of the building."

Contact Beth Wilson at 886-3748 or HYPERLINK

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

plans to establish a law school in Corpus Christi,


New ideas for the old Nueces Courthouse

One developer's idea: Make it a law school

By Beth Wilson Caller-Times
April 3, 2007

The site of many historic courtroom battles could become a training ground for lawyers and judges of the future under a local developer's plans to turn the old Nueces County Courthouse, which was completed in 1914, into a law school.

Dan Judson, of Judson Partners, said the idea is just conceptual, and future studies would determine the best use for the building that has been vacant since 1977.

<A TARGET="_blank" HREF=",2009209,2001053,2003385,2017031,2004033,2016958,2009540,2008590,2006392,2023725,2024418,2027983,2025492&RawValues=&"><IMG SRC="" WIDTH=120 HEIGHT=600 BORDER=0></A>
"We know the county doesn't have the funds or any real desire to do this," he said. "We're looking at it as a purely private venture. We buy the building and we fix it up."

Judson has not formalized plans to establish a law school in Corpus Christi, nor has he gotten a commitment from an existing school to open a campus here.

Commissioners will consider Judson's plan during a presentation Wednesday.

Commissioner Peggy Banales put the item on the commissioners' agenda.

Judson, owner of Ocean Drive Marina, has presented reuse plans to the city for Memorial Coliseum, including such ideas as an indoor market and restaurant and placing the Columbus ships under its green roof.

The city recently announced its plans with another developer to bring an amusement park to the bayfront site had fallen through.

If the county is interested in selling the building, Judson said his group and investors would determine what should be in the building and bring in the money to make that happen. He estimates renovations could cost between $9 million and $11 million.

The old courthouse, near the Harbor Bridge, received a $2.85 million exterior renovation of its south wing last year.

"The courthouse is a very beloved building by a lot of people, but in so being beloved, there are still issues we need to be aware of," she said. "And we don't want to use taxpayer money, if we can help it, to do what we need to do."

Banales said she'd like to see the courthouse keep its historical credibility and be useable. That could then stimulate economic growth for the downtown area, which is in her precinct, she said.

County Judge Loyd Neal said the county has been committed to spending money on the fairgrounds complex in Robstown and will have to consider other capital needs, like repairs to the jail and the occupied courthouse, as it goes into the next budget cycle.

"I've said all along I have no desire to put any more taxpayer dollars into the (1914) courthouse," he said.

The building can't be demolished until 2025 because of a deed restriction placed on the building when the county accepted grants from the Texas Historical Commission. The commission also prohibits any exterior changes, and would likely be involved in any reuse plans.

Commissioner Chuck Cazalas agreed that taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for restoration, and said the county should find a private sector partner for the project.

"If it turns from an eyesore into an asset for the community, than I would be 100 percent behind it," he said.

Commissioners Oscar Ortiz and Betty Jean Longoria said they are open to ideas for the old building, and may consider putting in some county funds.

"Right now as it's sitting there, it's just deteriorating, so we need to at least be open to any suggestions," Ortiz said.

Community donations and county funds provided the local match of $950,000 for the $2.85 million renovation that was completed last year.

In 2005, commissioners declined to put up $1.76 million to match state grant funds to continue renovation. Cost for complete restoration has been estimated atas much as $30 million.

The latest plan called for turning the building into a science and technology museum, but funding for the idea never materialized.

Contact Beth Wilson at 886-3748 or HYPERLINK