Bexar County

  • Interactive map shows how Bexar County voted in the 2016 presidential election

    Voters head to Woodlawn Baptist Church in San Antonio to cast their ballots on Election Day
    Voters head to Woodlawn Baptist Church in San Antonio to cast their ballots

    Hillary Clinton lost the election — but not in Bexar County. We can see which parts of the county and San Antonio supported Clinton or GOP presidential winner Donald Trump thanks to the Bexar County Elections Department, which releases precinct-level voting results after every election.

    This interactive map we created from the data follows a familiar pattern. From our story that ran today:

    Voters in outlying areas of Bexar County turned out in strong numbers and overwhelmingly supported Republican presidential winner Donald Trump, especially on the far, suburban North Side.

    But Democrat Hillary Clinton, who lost the national election and Texas, still won the popular vote locally and seized more than twice as many voting precincts as Trump in other parts of Bexar County, according to an analysis of election data by the San Antonio Express-News.

    The analysis shows a county divided by geography and ideology. Some of the strongest turnout occurred in large precincts that ring Bexar County and lean conservative. Nestled in that sea of Trump supporters is an island of inner-city precincts that might be smaller in size, but collectively supported Clinton and other Democrats in high numbers.

    What explains the divide? Many of the precincts that favored Clinton were in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods such as Precinct 2045 near Woodlawn Lake, where 65 percent of the voters cast ballots. Most voters in that precinct preferred Clinton over Trump, 952 votes to 258.

    “It doesn’t help that we’re the most economically segregated community in the United States,” said Manuel Medina, chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, referring to past studies examining the economic divide in San Antonio.

    Click on any precinct to view voter turnout and the final results. Overall, Clinton won 474 voting precincts in Bexar County while Trump won 198. Out of 598,081 ballots cast in Bexar County, Clinton won 53.7 percent of the vote to Trump’s 40.3 percent.

  • Police reports about people who die in custody are late, missing in Texas

    With so many controversial deadly force incidents in the news that raise questions about police tactics, wouldn’t it be great to have a reliable system in place to keep track of lethal police encounters to get a handle on how often they happen?

    The good news is, there’s a statewide system in Texas to track how often people die in police custody. The bad news is, no one is taking responsibility to make sure the reports are accurate or even filed at all.

    When I started working at the Express-News eons ago in 1997, one thing I learned as a cops reporter is that Texas law requires police departments to file a report with the Attorney General’s office every time someone dies in police custody.

    The reports are available to anyone who asks, and under the law, the definition of “custody” includes police shootings.

    Gilbert Flores
    Flores
    Those “custodial death” reports came to mind this summer after two Bexar County deputies fatally shot a combative suspect, Gilbert Flores, moments after he raised his hands above his head in an apparent attempt to surrender. A bystander, Michael Thomas, recorded the shooting on his cell phone, sold the video footage to KSAT-TV, and it became a national news story.

    The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and the Bexar County district attorney refused to release any records about the shooting. Since custodial death reports are filed with the Attorney General’s office, I bypassed the sheriff’s office and filed an open records request with the AG for the custodial death report for the Flores shooting.

    Missing information

    When the AG’s office emailed me a copy of the report, there was a gaping hole. At no point did it mention that Flores had his hands raised when he was shot. The sparsely worded narrative stated:

    Officers were dispatched to 24414 Walnut Pass for a family violence call. Suspect attacked the officers with a knife and was shot by the officers after the suspect refused to drop the knife. Suspect resisted arrest.

    Maybe it’s not surprising the sheriff’s office didn’t include that pertinent fact. But the omission raised a basic question: What exactly is required of a law enforcement agency when it files a custodial death report, and is anyone making sure the information is accurate?

    Police accountability

    A few Google searches and phone calls taught me a lot more about the law and the history of custodial death reports. For example, Texas law requires a “good faith effort to obtain all facts relevant to the death and include those facts in the report.” It’s a misdemeanor if the agency files the report but fails to include “facts known or discovered in the investigation.”

    Using the eminently valuable website of the Texas Legislative Reference Library, I tracked down who wrote the law and learned it was a former Bexar County lawmaker named Walter Martinez, who filed his bill in 1983 to help the public learn more about custodial deaths.

    “At the time, a pretty energetic prison reform movement was going on in the state,” Martinez told me. “We really didn’t know what the record was with regard to deaths while in custody.”

    When Martinez’s bill became law, it set up a potentially useful resource for anyone researching police use of force in Texas. But how well did law enforcement agencies actually follow the statute, and did they ever face any repercussions for failing to follow it?

    Those questions led to this news story:

    The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office failed to file at least five state-mandated reports about people who died in police shootings since 2005, was late in filing a dozen more fatality reports and left out key details about two deadly shootings involving deputies.

    The missing details include how one suspect had his hands raised above his head when two deputies opened fire. In another case, a report didn’t quote a deputy who can be heard on dash-camera video saying, “He started attacking me and I shot him.” The deputy then swears, saying either “Fuck him” or “Fuck it.”

    Sheriff’s spokesman James Keith noted that the five missing reports of fatal shootings all occurred before Sheriff Susan Pamerleau took office Jan. 1, 2013. During her tenure, four custodial death reports were late. Keith blamed that on a misunderstanding that’s been cleared up.

    “The investigator didn’t have a clear understanding of the law and the requirement that these had to be submitted within 30 days,” Keith said.

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office doesn’t take any steps to make sure law enforcement agencies are being diligent in filing the reports.

    “We are simply a repository for this information,” spokeswoman Katherine Wise wrote in an email when asked if the attorney general’s office has any system in place to flag late reports.

    Texas Custodial Death Report for Police

    While the AG doesn’t check how often reports are filed past the 30-day deadline, there’s a simple way to find out by using the agency’s own data.

    You can request a copy of a large spreadsheet the AG compiles from the custodial death reports submitted by law enforcement agencies. This is a lot more detailed than what the AG posts on its website. Out of 4,250 death reports filed in Texas since 2005, the records show that law enforcement agencies filed nearly 700 reports — 16 percent — after the 30-day deadline. Some reports were more than two years late:

    Late custodial death reports in Texas



    Report Date Days late Department Name First Name Last Name Age
    1/25/2012 12:04 1,013 Wichita Falls Police Dept. Daniel Smith 33
    1/10/2013 13:38 1,011 Brazoria County Sheriff’s Dept. Jesse Woodard 27
    7/27/2015 0:00 826 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Natalio Chaparro 65
    8/14/2007 9:25 810 Harris County Constable Precinct 5 Romon Giesburg 15
    7/27/2015 0:00 807 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Melvin Bell 27
    7/27/2015 0:00 805 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Donald Bryant 84
    7/27/2015 0:00 804 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Alvin Wilson 55
    7/27/2015 0:00 774 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Prudencio Ortiz 78
    3/2/2015 13:05 719 Bastrop County Sheriff’s Dept. Jose Cantu 78
    7/27/2015 0:00 627 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice David Graham 48
    2/26/2010 9:48 617 Garland Police Dept. Troy Pool 32
    7/31/2008 7:57 570 Potter County Sheriff’s Dept. Raymond Mayburry 61
    7/22/2014 13:42 543 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Isidoro Resendez 32
    2/26/2010 9:57 527 Garland Police Dept. Derrick Watson 20
    7/20/2015 0:00 505 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Michael Yates 24
    3/2/2012 12:13 490 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Bobby Neble 39
    11/26/2013 13:10 408 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Jose Guerra 20
    7/20/2015 0:00 392 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Balkrishna Booker 33
    1/4/2007 13:42 381 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Ronald Delcamp 47
    5/10/2006 16:26 380 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Jeronimo Rivera 44
    2/25/2015 13:17 374 Bastrop County Sheriff’s Dept. Yvette Smith 47
    10/5/2007 14:45 367 Abilene Police Dept. Jeffery Trotter 27
    5/9/2013 11:21 366 White Oak Police Dept. Jason Slaughter 36
    1/22/2007 8:24 366 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Cruz Perea 54
    1/22/2007 8:18 366 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Cruz Perea 54
    1/1/2007 14:52 365 Austin Police Dept. Fidel Macedo 44
    6/19/2015 12:36 357 Midland Police Dept. Nyocomus Garnett 35
    1/7/2008 10:30 352 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Janette Blair 51
    7/20/2015 0:00 351 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vincent Heims 49
    2/26/2010 10:04 344 Garland Police Dept. Rudy Elizondo 17
    7/20/2015 0:00 342 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Kelly Hunckler 24
    8/8/2006 14:13 338 McAllen Police Dept. Nelson Saenz 56
    2/26/2010 10:10 326 Garland Police Dept. Abel Quinonez 48
    6/26/2007 15:08 288 Plainview Police Dept. Jose Ceballos 34
    6/29/2010 14:24 258 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Robert Brock 27
    7/20/2015 0:00 255 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Larry Johnson 51
    7/20/2015 0:00 245 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Thanh Pham 34
    11/8/2006 16:44 235 Midland Police Dept. Patrick Calanchi 28
    7/24/2015 0:00 231 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Michael Harrington 45
    7/20/2015 0:00 231 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Fiyaz Hussain 16
    6/27/2007 7:38 230 Silsbee Police Dept. Robin Lynn 44
    1/31/2013 13:27 220 Harris County Sheriff’s Office John Pinkston 53
    6/8/2009 19:54 214 Austin Police Dept. Adan Mondragon 23
    1/31/2013 13:05 212 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Jesus Rivera 28
    2/18/2009 15:11 209 Dallas Police Dept. Richard Smith 46
    6/18/2015 15:20 199 Midland Police Dept. Rosendo Rodriguez 49
    5/22/2006 9:42 196 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Wesley Creager 43
    12/3/2013 13:40 193 Austin Police Dept. John Thomas 56
    5/18/2010 0:00 190 McKinney Police Dept. Jeremy Bates 20
    3/29/2010 10:18 189 Dallas Police Dept. Jerry Gray 56
    7/20/2015 0:00 185 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Laranthony Moore 23
    10/20/2005 14:42 184 Bowie County Sheriff’s Dept. Robert Williams 54
    3/26/2010 10:03 181 Dallas Police Dept. Robert Taylor 44
    3/26/2010 11:00 180 Dallas Police Dept. Abel Martinez 36
    11/8/2006 14:43 173 San Antonio Police Dept. Kevin MaGirl 52
    11/8/2006 10:08 172 San Antonio Police Dept. Brounxsye Barber 17
    2/26/2010 10:16 171 Garland Police Dept. Ronald Chester 37
    7/17/2015 0:00 168 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Pedro Hernandez 38
    4/29/2013 15:40 168 Franklin County Sheriff’s Dept. Jonathan Love 29
    6/28/2012 12:49 166 Smith County Sheriff’s Dept. Isachar Guerrero 47
    3/2/2009 15:49 166 Dallas Police Dept. Derrick Jones 31
    8/9/2011 14:59 164 Garland Police Dept. James Kincaid 66
    11/17/2008 14:50 164 Dallas Police Dept. Dale Lemoine 53
    9/12/2011 0:00 163 Conroe Police Dept. James Hill 54
    7/1/2008 8:42 160 Beaumont Police Dept. Michael Mitchell 22
    12/15/2008 14:43 159 Dallas Police Dept. Rodrigo Aguirre 25
    4/26/2013 8:37 156 Wise County Sheriff’s Dept. David Malone 29
    11/28/2005 9:15 153 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Edwin Kelley 81
    10/29/2008 15:00 152 Dallas Police Dept. Daniel Ross 42
    6/26/2007 14:59 152 Plainview Police Dept. Clara Morris 54
    11/17/2005 15:28 149 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Julie Martinez 29
    7/17/2015 0:00 148 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Antonio Williams 34
    6/29/2010 10:48 145 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Jose De La Rosa 18
    10/4/2006 8:23 144 Richardson Police Dept. Kevin Nelson 37
    7/30/2009 15:15 143 Dallas Police Dept. Shirley South 41
    8/1/2007 10:46 142 Texas Department Of Public Safety Michael Steggall 35
    7/24/2015 0:00 139 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Jose Alvarado 47
    7/24/2015 0:00 138 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Larry Shears 63
    7/24/2015 0:00 137 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Clarence Petry 50
    7/24/2015 0:00 137 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Marty Robinson 47
    1/20/2010 0:00 135 Mission Police Dept. Adan Olvera 39
    7/24/2015 0:00 134 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Kwabina Wilson 34
    7/24/2015 0:00 134 Tarrant County Sheriff’s Dept. Larry Crowley 52
    11/9/2006 14:57 134 Texas Department Of Public Safety Thomas Strong 42
    7/24/2015 0:00 132 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Timothy White 60
    7/24/2015 0:00 132 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Charles Womack 55
    6/16/2006 15:39 132 San Marcos Police Dept. Leslie Whited 35
    8/17/2011 8:31 131 Grand Prairie Police Dept. Thahn Nguyen 34
    7/24/2015 0:00 130 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Cubia Collins 70
    7/24/2015 0:00 129 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Gary Miller 45
    11/17/2005 15:54 129 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Paul Hensley 44
    9/15/2005 8:38 129 Llano County Sheriff’s Dept. Eric Wolfe 29
    8/4/2009 13:32 128 Dallas Police Dept. Rosendo Navareno 24
    7/24/2015 0:00 125 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Phillip Allen 64
    7/5/2011 14:41 123 Taylor County Sheriff’s Dept. Ernest Baca 49
    7/31/2013 14:07 120 Nueces County Sheriff’s Dept. John Wallace 58
    4/24/2008 9:33 120 Reeves County Sheriff’s Dept. Francisco Cancino-Rodriguez 33
    4/20/2006 13:05 120 Baytown Police Dept. James Potts 51
    7/24/2015 0:00 119 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Terry Phillips 54
    11/17/2005 16:25 119 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Harry Clark 56
    1/4/2007 13:52 117 Desoto Police Dept. Antonie Bell 31
    7/24/2015 0:00 115 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Thomas Jemmerison 58
    7/24/2015 0:00 114 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Matthew Nelson 37
    7/17/2015 0:00 114 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Teleforo Jimenez 83
    8/3/2012 16:24 114 San Antonio Police Dept. mario soto 41
    7/24/2015 0:00 113 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Blaine Devillier 57
    11/22/2005 9:52 113 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Kendrick McGahee 24
    7/24/2015 0:00 111 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Manuel Arzola 46
    2/5/2013 11:17 110 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Gerrit Perkins 37
    6/16/2006 14:15 110 San Antonio Police Dept. Nugent Raspberry 44
    7/24/2015 0:00 109 Mansfield Police Dept. Wendale Webb 44
    2/16/2006 16:45 109 San Antonio Police Dept. Gerald Salazar 49
    11/18/2005 14:45 109 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Brandi Marsh 25
    11/19/2008 14:53 108 Dallas Police Dept. Gregory Carter 51
    8/21/2008 12:49 108 Dallas Police Dept. Reginald Starling 30
    3/8/2006 8:21 107 Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Dept. Daniell Bundrick 46
    10/13/2009 14:42 106 Dallas Police Dept. Stacey Paris 38
    5/25/2006 14:37 106 Nueces County Sheriff’s Dept. Santos Guajardo 25
    7/27/2015 0:00 104 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Manuel Garcia 70
    7/24/2015 0:00 104 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Matthew Espinoza 29
    11/18/2005 15:07 104 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Michael Gladney 27
    5/10/2006 7:55 103 Cameron County Sheriff’s Dept. Joe Ramos 37
    11/18/2005 15:13 103 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Fulton Carter 54
    7/24/2015 0:00 100 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Lloyd Gore 56
    8/8/2006 13:04 100 McAllen Police Dept. Arthur Ramirez 34
    8/2/2006 16:14 100 Frio County Sheriff’s Dept. Jesus Benavides 55
    11/18/2005 15:27 99 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Earl Guyton 74
    7/17/2015 0:00 98 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Sean Flanders 31
    1/24/2012 11:09 98 Dallas Police Dept. Jacob Ford 23
    2/16/2006 16:31 98 San Antonio Police Dept. Carl O’Neill 40
    4/18/2005 13:59 98 Temple Police Dept. Curtis Lewis 56
    7/24/2015 0:00 97 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Tracy McNulty 53
    2/16/2006 8:40 97 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Ray Grimes 28
    10/1/2009 15:32 95 Dallas Police Dept. Johnny Rose 49
    7/21/2009 13:09 95 Wichita Falls Police Dept. Daniel Smith 33
    5/18/2005 15:41 95 Comanche County Sheriff’s Dept. Adrian Muniz 19
    4/9/2007 14:41 94 Mansfield Police Dept. Diane McIntyre 45
    2/16/2006 9:23 94 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Jose Peralta 47
    7/28/2010 10:54 93 Hood County Sheriff’s Dept. Michael Pollard 29
    3/9/2009 10:33 93 Houston Police Dept. Peter Ioannidis 50
    8/2/2006 16:26 93 Milam County Sheriff’s Dept. Ricky Shaw 46
    11/21/2005 8:00 93 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice George Rodriguez 39
    7/28/2010 12:29 92 Hunt County Sheriff’s Dept. Randy Wallick 54
    2/1/2006 10:39 92 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Joe Martinez 33
    2/26/2010 9:59 91 Garland Police Dept. Antonio Alonzo 27
    2/16/2006 8:26 91 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Ruben Ramirez 45
    7/24/2015 0:00 90 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Jose Pizano 48
    11/16/2006 11:09 90 Hudson Oaks Police Dept. Billy Weckar 53
    2/1/2006 10:29 90 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Richard Goree 54
    11/18/2005 15:41 90 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice James Holland 60
    7/27/2015 0:00 89 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Charles Lockhart 60
    8/23/2013 13:51 89 Texas Department Of Public Safety Esteban Smith 23
    2/16/2006 8:55 89 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Dion Jamerson 28
    11/22/2005 14:09 89 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Billy Down 54
    8/2/2006 16:44 88 El Paso Police Dept. Alfonso DeAnda 35
    2/16/2006 15:47 88 Frio County Sheriff’s Dept. Robert Hernandez 36
    6/3/2015 11:17 87 Wise County Sheriff’s Dept. Leslie Burnham 49
    11/26/2013 15:44 87 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Mathew Jackson 30
    2/1/2006 9:31 87 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Edward Alcazar 62
    2/3/2011 11:48 86 Cameron County Sheriff’s Dept. Jose Guerrero 51
    3/23/2010 17:39 86 Dallas Police Dept. Dontell Terrell 19
    2/16/2006 11:15 86 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Christopher Fant 20
    6/26/2007 14:50 85 Grimes County Sheriff’s Dept. Larry Key 38
    2/16/2006 12:52 85 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice John Garrett 34
    10/20/2005 9:21 85 Lipscomb County Sheriff’s Dept. Emily Corbin 20
    12/2/2011 10:03 84 South Houston Police Dept. Daniel Cisneros 23
    11/15/2006 12:33 84 Fort Worth Police Dept. Noah Lopez 25
    11/21/2005 8:15 84 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Jorge Rodriguez 27
    9/2/2014 10:33 83 Amarillo Police Dept. Jeremiah Farris 36
    7/30/2013 11:04 83 Deaf Smith County Sheriff’s Dept. Gary McQuigg 43
    10/6/2010 8:57 83 Dallas Police Dept. Cedric Hill 57
    2/16/2006 10:56 83 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Nelson Escolero 45
    2/1/2006 10:09 83 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Tean Bowens 53
    6/29/2010 13:45 81 Harris County Sheriff’s Office Christopher Brooks 26
    8/3/2006 9:26 81 Travis County Sheriff’s Dept. Mark Larkins 49
    7/28/2010 13:26 80 Bell County Sheriff’s Dept. Lincoln Kephart 46
    10/14/2009 13:11 80 Dallas Police Dept. Juan Reyes-Gallardo 27
    2/1/2006 9:55 80 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Robert Anderson 50
    7/24/2015 0:00 79 Travis County Sheriff’s Office Corey Carlson 50
    7/17/2015 0:00 79 El Paso Police Dept. Erik Salas 22
    5/26/2015 10:15 79 Travis County Sheriff’s Office Challase Jennings 47
    5/11/2007 8:24 79 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Gerardo Villarreal 42
    3/2/2006 10:39 79 Cameron County Sheriff’s Dept. Santiago Maldonado 25
    2/21/2006 8:57 79 Bell County Sheriff’s Dept. Marvin Carter 70
    2/16/2006 12:58 79 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Ralph Jackson 50
    1/26/2006 9:54 79 Dallas Police Dept. Rodricus Causey 20
    6/8/2005 10:58 79 Garland Police Dept. Kevin Garland 35
    4/18/2005 10:30 79 Pasadena Police Dept. Vicente Desena 27
    4/18/2005 8:24 79 Harris County Sheriff’s Dept. Ronnie Howard 42
    8/2/2007 15:58 78 Dallas Police Dept. Tommy Smith 39
    9/15/2005 9:23 78 Hewitt Police Dept. Travis Collins 34
    9/7/2010 11:30 77 San Patricio County Sheriff’s Dept. Charles Huett 38
    12/19/2007 16:24 77 Lufkin Police Dept. Brandon Kort 29
    11/15/2006 10:43 77 San Marcos Police Dept. Christopher Gonzales 19
    8/8/2006 14:57 77 Wichita Falls Police Dept. Timothy Alfaro 26
    11/21/2005 8:25 77 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Leonard Price 40
    9/16/2013 10:35 76 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Fredy Suazo-Perez 28
    7/28/2010 13:12 76 Coleman County Sheriff’s Dept. John Dobbins 24
    8/3/2006 10:29 76 Dallas Police Dept. Ben Miller 36
    12/22/2005 10:15 76 Mission Police Dept. Jose Lopez 40
    11/8/2006 15:07 75 Corpus Christi Police Dept. Elcide Sylve 48
    8/3/2006 10:12 75 Corpus Christi Police Dept. Madeline Garcia 34
    2/7/2006 10:53 74 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice David Magnusson 33
    7/31/2013 15:31 73 Concho County Sheriff’s Dept. Ernesto Gonzalez 29
    12/17/2007 15:05 73 Dallas Police Dept. Juan Robles 54
    2/9/2007 10:21 73 Hopkins County Sheriff’s Dept. Terri Minty 36
    8/8/2006 13:12 73 Dallas Police Dept. Gregory Steward 32
    8/1/2013 11:10 72 Bosque County Sheriff’s Dept. Alan Stokes 22
    1/20/2011 15:04 72 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Phillp Speckter 58
    10/29/2008 14:19 72 Littlefield Police Dept. RANDALL McCULLOUGH 38
    2/9/2007 13:00 72 San Patricio County Sheriff’s Dept. Simon Diaz 49
    11/8/2006 14:53 72 El Paso Police Dept. William Ecker 58
    2/16/2006 16:13 72 Montgomery County Sheriff’s Dept. Daniel Beasley 45
    2/16/2006 14:09 72 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Andrew Cervantes 59
    11/22/2005 14:27 72 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Raymond Gonzales 59
    5/18/2012 10:20 71 Dallas Police Dept. Luis Escalante 23
    11/21/2005 7:56 71 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Robert Gomez 31
    10/20/2005 11:01 71 Denton County Sheriff’s Dept. Brian Savage 37
    10/20/2005 10:34 71 Houston Police Dept. Ronald Newman 52
    4/18/2005 10:14 71 San Antonio Police Dept. Doroteo Torres 22
    3/15/2005 16:47 71 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Rodger Jenkins, Jr. 25
    5/9/2006 9:34 70 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Robert Aleman 62
    11/22/2005 14:22 70 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Heilry Atkins 65
    5/18/2005 15:51 70 Dallas County Sheriff’s Dept. Charles Townsend 58
    4/18/2005 9:15 70 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Pedro Rodriguez 54
    2/18/2014 13:08 69 Malakoff Police Dept. William Livezy 70
    2/13/2014 9:02 69 University of Incarnate Word Cameron Redus 23
    11/8/2006 16:16 69 Hunt County Sheriff’s Dept. Glenda Jackson 42
    8/3/2006 9:04 69 Gregg County Sheriff’s Dept. Adolphus Randall 51
    2/16/2006 13:41 69 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Shan Woods 31
    3/15/2005 16:53 69 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Sam Salas 45
    5/21/2015 13:48 68 Austin Police Dept. James Sizer 62
    8/3/2006 16:24 68 Dallas Police Dept. Jason Pabis 31
    11/21/2005 8:43 68 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Carolyn Wells 41
    10/21/2005 8:39 68 Kinney County Sheriff’s Dept. Eulalio Garza 21
    3/18/2005 14:12 68 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Frank James 74
    3/16/2005 7:41 68 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Bernard Brown 49
    7/30/2013 15:17 67 Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Dept. Donald Adams 49
    5/31/2011 15:10 67 Ector County Sheriff’s Dept. Juan Carrasco 33
    2/22/2010 11:38 67 Dumas Police Dept. John Ward 38
    11/5/2009 16:44 67 Kaufman County Sheriff’s Dept. Jerome Nicholson 81
    12/19/2007 15:54 67 Collin County Sheriff’s Dept. Bok Park 44
    8/3/2006 8:50 67 Aransas County Sheriff’s Dept. Michael Solis 28
    2/16/2006 13:30 67 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Ennis Johnson 33
    4/18/2005 14:43 67 Plano Police Dept. Anthony Sanders 30
    4/27/2012 8:34 66 Randall County Sheriff’s Dept. Tara Miller 46
    2/2/2011 13:57 66 Parker County Sheriff’s Dept. Darryl Brady 46
    5/17/2010 8:54 66 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Antonio Hicks 33
    2/22/2008 11:27 66 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Arthur Duku 24
    9/17/2007 14:13 66 Dallas Police Dept. Matthew Layton 25
    3/18/2005 14:27 66 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Thomas Self 23
    3/18/2005 14:20 66 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Bennie Gonzalez 60
    11/5/2009 16:31 65 Collin County Sheriff’s Dept. Christopher Schell 29
    8/3/2006 12:58 65 Denison Police Dept. Bobby Wadford 55
    2/16/2006 13:25 65 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Howard Ellis 33
    10/20/2005 9:35 65 Tarrant County Sheriff’s Dept. Christopher Waller 46
    3/18/2005 14:34 65 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Michael Bennett 75
    2/10/2015 12:32 64 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Christopher Doss 41
    2/10/2014 0:00 64 Denton County Sheriff’s Dept. Michael Stolz 77
    8/22/2008 16:17 64 San Patricio County Sheriff’s Dept. Raul Gomez 46
    6/26/2007 16:29 64 Midland Police Dept. Chad Sanchez 20
    11/15/2006 15:45 64 Texas Department Of Public Safety Kevin Vickers 48
    9/14/2005 16:42 64 Euless Police Dept. Kevin Omas 17
    4/18/2005 9:09 64 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Nathaniel Watts 50
    11/25/2008 9:06 63 Longview Police Dept. Kevin Williams 32
    6/29/2007 9:45 63 Rockwall County Sheriff’s Dept. James Hetchler 45
    11/16/2006 10:27 63 Garland Police Dept. Curtis Harwell 39
    2/16/2006 14:21 63 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Norman Colburn 55
    1/26/2006 9:41 63 Comal County Sheriff’s Dept. Irving West 48
    4/19/2005 8:11 63 Fort Worth Police Dept. John Morrison 59
    4/18/2005 8:58 63 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Darrell Gilbert 36
    3/18/2005 14:40 63 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Juan Cantu 54
    4/5/2013 15:04 62 Copperas Cove Police Dept. Kristofer Gagliardi 24
    12/10/2012 14:25 62 Dallas Police Dept. Marshall Moreno 43
    11/22/2005 14:39 62 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Robert Hathaway 74
    10/20/2005 13:13 62 Allen Police Dept. Edgar Vera 45
    10/20/2005 9:59 62 Dallas Police Dept. Douglas Blackstone 24
    4/18/2005 11:04 62 Lubbock Police Dept. Pedro Alcorte 43
    8/16/2006 14:08 61 Williamson County Sheriff’s Dept. Joe Thornton 29
    8/3/2006 8:22 61 Randall County Sheriff’s Dept. Matthew Griffin 46
    7/20/2006 10:04 61 Dallas Police Dept. Dashaun Pearson 27
    2/28/2006 15:50 61 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Nicholas Ortiz 22
    2/16/2006 15:13 61 Brazos County Sheriff’s Dept Kendra Willliams 29
    4/18/2005 12:43 61 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Raymond Tristan 65
    3/18/2005 14:51 61 El Paso County Sheriff’s Dept. Roberto Diaz 55
    3/3/2005 14:07 61 Travis County Sheriff’s Dept. Michael Dickson 51
    11/14/2013 7:47 60 Johnson County Sheriff’s Dept. Gregory McElvy 35
    7/31/2013 16:43 60 Corsicana Police Dept. Eliseo Mercado-Resendiz 23
    7/31/2013 11:46 60 Ferris Police Dept. Angel (aka Oscar) Lopez (aka Martinez) 29
    2/3/2011 13:41 60 Robertson County Sheriff’s Dept. Diane Higgins 55
    12/11/2009 12:40 60 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Theodore Nelson 55
    11/17/2008 15:15 60 Dallas Police Dept. Eric Parenzan 22
    3/1/2006 7:28 60 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Kenneth Themis 45
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    10/4/2006 10:04 32 Payne Springs Police Department Michael Recio 19
    9/7/2006 11:22 32 Wichita Falls Police Dept. Jose Ramirez 24
    8/23/2006 9:21 32 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Shane Morris 35
    8/14/2006 11:32 32 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Guadalupe Rosales 67
    8/14/2006 11:19 32 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Michael Walker 20
    1/27/2006 9:22 32 Dallas County Sheriff’s Dept. Larry Gurst 53
    1/27/2006 9:11 32 Texas Department Of Public Safety Jacob Thompson 18
    1/27/2006 8:24 32 Taylor County Sheriff’s Dept. Dominic Pizotti 60
    12/1/2005 9:29 32 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Charlie Long 51
    10/28/2005 8:01 32 Austin Police Dept. Michael Clark 33
    8/11/2005 15:26 32 Dimmit County Sheriff’s Dept. Michael Cerna 26
    7/26/2005 14:59 32 Fort Worth Police Dept. Carolyn Daniels 35
    5/17/2005 14:11 32 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Edward Sauceda 46
    4/19/2005 10:40 32 Harris County Sheriff’s Dept. Ralph Montez 44
    11/12/2013 15:45 31 Tarrant County Sheriff’s Dept. Timothy Ghormley 64
    1/23/2013 7:17 31 Fort Worth Police Dept. Derrick Burleson 33
    4/16/2012 17:27 31 Tarrant County Sheriff’s Dept. Willie Smith 65
    2/21/2012 9:21 31 Texas Department Of Public Safety Michael Barnes 45
    2/15/2012 7:04 31 Fort Worth Police Dept. Daniel Guerra 24
    11/16/2011 11:09 31 Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center Jordan Adams 14
    11/2/2011 16:46 31 Bexar County Sheriff’s Dept. Jason Biesenbach 40
    10/20/2011 9:21 31 Amarillo Police Dept. Leon Stephens 72
    1/5/2010 9:10 31 Houston Police Dept. Stuart Proulx 49
    9/22/2009 16:49 31 Gregg County Sheriff’s Dept. Robert Foster 57
    8/4/2008 11:06 31 Fort Worth Police Dept. Gene Ketner 38
    2/4/2008 9:18 31 San Angelo Police Dept. Greg Cranfill 42
    8/28/2007 11:55 31 Val Verde County Sheriff’s Dept. Alberto REYES-Alvarez 25
    6/13/2007 8:15 31 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice David Morris 55
    2/7/2007 13:01 31 Houston Police Dept. Omar Esparza 21
    9/5/2006 11:04 31 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Terreth White 21
    4/28/2006 13:02 31 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Ernest Sims 68
    3/31/2006 12:58 31 San Antonio Police Dept. Steve Johnson 43
    3/28/2006 14:01 31 Harris County Sheriff’s Dept. Thomas Johnson 59
    3/28/2006 11:07 31 Brownsville Police Dept. Edgar Lopez 17
    12/22/2005 13:43 31 Pasadena Police Dept. Barney Green 38
    10/20/2005 15:29 31 Corpus Christi Police Dept. Gilberto Limon 42
    7/26/2005 13:54 31 Montague County Sheriff’s Dept. Randall Wiggins 46
    5/18/2005 10:23 31 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Anthony Evans 25
    3/24/2005 14:57 31 Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Gonzalo Garcia 55

    Late report

    In Bexar County, a report that was more than a year late was filed with the attorney general’s office Nov. 26, 2013. It described how Sgt. Frank Bellino had responded to a call Oct. 14, 2012, for a possibly intoxicated man who was walking along Culebra Road and creating a hazard for passing drivers.

    Joe Guerra
    Guerra
    The report says the unarmed man, Joe Guerra, 19, became aggravated and refused to obey instructions. “He charged at me,” Bellino was quoted as saying, and Bellino opened fire. Guerra later died at a hospital.

    I learned a lot about this case from a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Bellino and the sheriff’s office by Guerra’s family. Their lawyers unearthed dash-camera footage from a patrol car that recorded Bellino moments after the shooting explaining what happened.

    “He just went fucking nuts on me,” Bellino told a fellow deputy. “He started attacking me and I shot him.” Bellino then can be heard swearing, saying either “Fuck him” or “Fuck it.”

    Sean Lyons, a lawyer representing the Guerra family, told me there’s no question that Guerra was inebriated, but he disputed claims that Guerra was in any condition to fight. The custodial death report in Guerra’s case was not only a year late, he said, but paints an inaccurate picture of what happened.

    “You’re basically learning the opposite of what went wrong,” Lyons said of the report. “Because the report goes out of its way to make it sound like Bellino did all he could to de-escalate the situation and that Guerra was the aggressor, when in fact, Bellino immediately threatened Guerra’s life, threatened to fucking shoot his ass, and used escalating language.”

    Keith declined to answer most questions about the case, citing the litigation against the sheriff’s office. But he did say the office believes that the custodial death reports are supposed to be a general account of what happened.

    “The thought is, the investigation is still ongoing, you’re not going to know every single answer, every specific detail within that 30-day time period,” Keith said.

    Martinez, who served as a state representative from 1983 to 1985, said the law governing custodial death reports might need to be revised and strengthened to clearly show who’s responsible for making sure the records are accurate and filed on time for the public to review.

    “If no one’s following up or taking responsibility for ensuring that it’s done, then there’s a break in the chain,” Martinez said.




  • Have you been asked to donate to Shop with a Sheriff? Call me.

    If you live in Bexar County, someone claiming to be with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County might have called you recently, asking for money.

    The caller probably promised that every penny of your donation stays in Bexar County. You were probably told that it all goes to a worthy cause.

    Like most sales pitches, it wasn’t entirely true.

    Offices of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County
    The Deputy Sheriff s Association of Bexar County has offices in this building near the San Antonio International Airport.
    Last year the union representing Bexar County sheriff’s deputies hired a telemarketing firm called PFR Promotions to raise money for a charitable program called “Shop with a Sheriff.” Also called “Shop with a Cop” in other cities, it’s a holiday shopping spree for poor kids.

    The event is real. But most of the money from donations goes to PFR Promotions, not the kids.

    I started looking into Shop with a Sheriff after receiving a tip from someone who read our stories about the Texas Highway Patrol Museum, another telemarketing entity that relied on the credibility of law enforcement officers to raise money. The small San Antonio museum actually employed hundreds of telemarketers across Texas who raised millions. Yet only a fraction was spent on charity. Executives squandered donations on luxury vehicles and junkets. In December 2011, the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit and successfully shut down the operation.

    Shop with a Sheriff is a real event that helps children. But most of the money raised — 67 percent — goes to PFR Promotions, a telemarketing firm based in Arizona. Only a third trickles down to the charitable cause.

    Donors aren’t being told that vital information. In Texas, the law requires telemarketers who are raising money for law enforcement organizations to disclose their overhead before any donation is made. The law applies to companies located outside Texas. Organizations are also required to report that information to the Texas attorney general, which the union had failed to do.

    Union President Juan Contreras acknowledged that he wasn’t aware of that legal requirement and pledged to take care of the problem immediately. He said the union might sever its relationship with PFR Promotions.

    But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from potential donors whether PFR’s telemarketers are complying with the law.

    If you’ve received a phone call, feel free to contact me and let me know if the caller is disclosing who he works for — and where your money is really going.

  • San Antonio lawyer Alberto Acevedo says he bribed judge, got favorable treatment

    Express-News Reporter Guillermo Contreras, who covers the federal-courts beat, has been writing scoop after scoop about an FBI investigation at the Bexar County courthouse in San Antonio. The latest bombshell is a story about this plea deal for local defense lawyer Alberto “Al” Acevedo Jr., who lays out in excruciating detail how he bribed Bexar County District Judge Angus McGinty by giving him cash, paying for car repairs and selling the judge’s Mercedes for him:

    “In exchange for these bribes, Judge McGinty provided favorable judicial rulings which benefited me and my clients,” Acevedo says in the court document. “Judge McGinty provided these favorable judicial rulings as requested, and as opportunities arose. These favorable rulings included leniency at sentencing and less restrictive conditions of release.”

    San Antonio lawyer AcevedoThe clients included a man who was convicted of DWI and sentenced by McGinty to three years imprisonment. In court, McGinty had said the defendant had committed so many offenses it didn’t make any sense to put him on probation. Yet after Acevedo asked him to reduce the sentence, the judge did just that and sentenced him to four years community supervision:

    On Sept. 10, Gabriel A. Lopez stood before then-state District Judge Angus McGinty and received three years in prison and a $1,500 fine for his no-contest plea to drunken driving.

    He admitted his blood alcohol level was 0.21 — more than 21/2 times the legal limit. It was his third driving-while-intoxicated conviction.

    “There comes a time when someone has committed so many offenses that it doesn’t make sense to put them on probation,” McGinty told Lopez, 35, who appeared with attorney Leandro Renaud.

    The judge noted Lopez had 11 prior criminal cases and had received probation four times, while three of those were revoked.

    “That’s unacceptable, Mr. Lopez,” McGinty admonished. “I do not think probation is appropriate.”

    But just three days later, on Sept. 13, Lopez stood before McGinty again, this time with lawyer Al Acevedo Jr. And this time, he walked out a happier man after the judge changed Lopez’s sentence to four years of probation.

    “Mr. Lopez, when you were here last, and I sentenced you, it’s because I thought you had earned the right to go to” prison, McGinty said. “Your attorney has done a good job of pointing out some facts that I didn’t adequately consider before.”

    In reality, the FBI has alleged, Acevedo had the good graces of the judge because he had served as McGinty’s personal car service — paying for repairs on the jurist’s two luxury cars with the expectation that the scales of justice would tilt heavily in favor of Acevedo’s clients.

    Later, Acevedo’s law partner congratulated Acevedo. “I guess it does make a difference givin’, givin’ people money, right?”

    Acevedo laughed. “Sure does,” he replied.

    Other clients that benefited from the judge’s leniency included an alleged bank robber and a man charged with aggravated robbery.

    McGinty resigned after word of the federal investigation spread but hasn’t yet been charged.




  • ‘San Antonio 4’ set free after doubts raised in bizarre criminal case

    Anna Vasquez, right, embraces her brother David Vasquez, as family and friends of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera and Kristie Mayhugh gather in the 175th District Court in the Cadena Reeves Justice Center to hear that the 3 women will be released from prison. Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. The fourth women, Anna Vasquez, was released on parole from prison just over a year ago.Express-News reporter Michelle Mondo spent 18 months investigating the bizarre case of the “San Antonio Four” — four women accused of sexually assaulting two girls over the course of a weekend filled with debauchery and Satan worship. Michelle’s meticulously researched article raised questions about the evidence and the credibility of the accusers, who might have made up the whole sordid story.

    Since then, one of the accusers recanted, and one of the accused was released on parole. Today, the remaining members of the San Antonio Four were set free on bond.

    Amazing.

    (Photo credit: Bob Owen/San Antonio Express-News)


  • Road rage in Texas: Find accidents in your neighborhood with this interactive map


    Full map
    Crash with one or more injuries. Crash with no injuries.

    Braylon Nelson is one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. Like any other 2-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity, he asks a million questions and loves stories. When I visited him, a 400-page book of fairy tales was on his bed near the medical equipment that helps him breathe and eat.

    Braylon’s father was driving him home from daycare last year when a Ford F-150 crashed into their small Saturn SL2. Witnesses said the truck driver had been speeding during a dispute with another motorist, and police blamed the accident on road rage.

    The Nelsons had nothing to do with the altercation, but Braylon was paralyzed from the neck down.

    No other county in Texas has as many reported road-rage crashes as Bexar County. Police and sheriff’s deputies cited road rage as a contributing factor in 680 crashes from 2007 to 2011.

    That’s according to a public database of every vehicle accident in the state. The information comes from police accident reports, known as CR-3 forms, and are compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation in a massive database called the Crash Records Information System.

    The database tracks hundreds of details about each accident, and anyone can request this information from TxDOT. You can ask for specific locations or types of crashes, or request a copy of the entire database if you’re comfortable using spreadsheets or database managers. To get an idea of what kind of information is available, check out this TxDOT spreadsheet. Or you can read the annual reports of crash statistics published by TxDOT.

    Why does Bexar County have so many road rage crashes? It’s unclear whether we have more angry drivers, or whether San Antonio police are more apt to cite road rage than officers in other jurisdictions.

    Road Rage in Bexar CountyWhen I met with police officials about these statistics, they said they couldn’t comment on the reporting practices in other cities. But about 12 years ago they recognized San Antonio had a growing problem with aggressive drivers, and police started a program in which officers drive in unmarked cars to catch speeders, tailgaters, and other unsafe motorists like the ones accused of paralyzing Braylon.

    I’ve seen some crazy drivers in San Antonio, and when I was working on this story, it seemed like every day I saw someone driving like a maniac.

    If you want to learn more about road rage, you can check out the data for yourself in this interactive map that shows crashes in your neighborhood. You can also download the raw numbers here.

  • Express-News and WOAI team up for story about court-appointed lawyers

    Collister
    Collister
    Veteran observers of San Antonio politics experienced a deja vu moment the other night when a familiar story graced their TV screens. WOAI Trouble Shooter Brian Collister told viewers that Bexar County judges are using a flawed process to appoint lawyers to indigent defendants. If this story rings a bell, it should — Collister broke a similar story in 2002 about then County-Court-at-Law Judge M’Liss Christian giving David Garcia, a lawyer and city councilman at the time, most of Garcia’s indigent defense work at the courthouse.

    This was an interesting fact, considering how Christian and Garcia were rumored to be a romantic item.

    In 2002, the Express-News and other San Antonio news organizations scrambled to keep up with Collister’s bombshell coverage of Christian and Garcia. But for this more recent court story, Collister did something weird — the hyper competitive TV reporter asked if the Express-News wanted to team up.

    How the heck did that happen?

    It turned out Collister was working on his courthouse story around the same time Express-News reporter Brian Chasnoff was also digging into the issue. Last month, Chasnoff wrote a story about Bexar County’s erratic method of appointing defense lawyers to low-income clients. The story was based on a state report by the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense, which determined that Bexar County was violating the Texas Fair Defense Act.

    It was an important story. If you’re poor and accused of a crime in Texas, you’re entitled to a court-appointed lawyer. That lawyer is supposed to be randomly appointed to your case from a rotating pool of eligible lawyers. But in Bexar County, judges were appointing hundreds of lawyers who weren’t even on the approved list, and a small number of lawyers had amassed the most work and income.

    The state report obtained by Chasnoff did not identify the lawyers who got the most work. But Collister had already obtained a county database that named names. It identified the lawyers receiving court appointments; how much they were paid; and the judges that gave out the work. A handful of attorneys were making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    This is where things get interesting.

    In the old days, Collister would have done his own story in an effort to compete with the Express-News. But times have changed in journalism. There are fewer warm bodies in newsrooms, and while there’s still heated competition between news organizations in Texas, there’s also a new willingness to pool resources, collaborate on stories, and reach wider audiences.

    So Collister approached the Express-News and asked if it wanted to team up for a detailed story about court-appointed lawyers.

    “The idea was, ‘You have a piece of the puzzle, I have a piece of the puzzle. Let’s work together and make a better story,'” Collister told me. “The days of there being cutthroat competition, to a point, are over.”

    It was an odd sight watching Collister hanging out in the Express-News, hovering over Chasnoff’s desk and collaborating like it was the most natural thing in the world.

    I asked Chasnoff what it was like working with Collister. Chasnoff said he was pleasantly surprised. He didn’t encounter the heavy handed reporter on TV who shoves fuzzy microphones in people’s faces during ambush interviews. Collister had good ideas, and his court data saved Chasnoff a lot of time. Before they teamed up, Chasnoff had requested similar data from the county, so partnering with Collister meant Chasnoff didn’t have to waste time waiting for the information. “He had the goods,” Chasnoff said.

    Chasnoff wrote a long news story that ran in the Sunday paper and WOAI produced its own version of the story. They identified the top lawyers and how much they were paid and posted the data online:

    The top earner, lawyer Hilda Valadez, earned more than $400,000 in the past three years, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the average court-appointed attorney.

    In at least one courtroom, the inequity appears rooted in cronyism. Attorney Edward Adams, who contributed the most in the past year to the failed re-election campaign of County Court Judge Monica Guerrero, also was appointed the most cases and earned by far the most money in Guerrero’s court in the past three years.

    Both news organizations brought different strengths to the table. WOAI told the story with pictures and audio, while the newspaper story went into greater depth and detail. Collister said he was pleased by the long, nuanced newspaper article. In most TV stories, he has to leave a lot of good material on the cutting room floor — that’s the nature of the beast in TV news, which is always crunched for time. So it was nice to have the newspaper story include points that he didn’t have a chance to air.

    “To see it all get out there is just really gratifying,” Collister said.

    I like news scoops as much as the next guy. But I’m starting to warm up to the notion that there’s a benefit to teaming up, every once in awhile, with other news organizations to pool resources and reach a broader audience.

    Even after the stories ran, the teamwork between Collister and Chasnoff continued. The stories generated interesting tips from readers and viewers. Chasnoff said he and Collister have been sharing tips, and they might work on follow-up stories together.

    “His attitude is, we stay unified,” Chasnoff said, “and we push the story forward.”

  • What stimulus projects are being funded in Bexar County, and what’s the price tag?

    Construction workers on the Mission Reach of the River Walk
    Construction workers on the River Walk's Mission Reach

    Our latest story about the stimulus is about how much federal money is flowing to Bexar County, what kind of projects are being funded, and what will the lasting impact be?

    Stimulus money is fixing headstones at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, building new playgrounds, painting buildings at Lackland AFB, paying for 50 new police officers and reshaping the San Antonio River.

    It’s funding high-profile projects that will benefit future generations — and paying for obscure work that hardly will be noticed.

    Sometimes, it feels like the biggest beneficiaries of the Recovery Act are companies that make the outlandishly sized checks for ribbon-cuttings, where politicians frequently take credit for stimulus projects.

    But behind the photo ops are a large number of companies, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations that were awarded 775 grants and contracts in Bexar County worth more than $850 million, according to spending reports released last week by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. Another $60 million in stimulus money is being loaned to local businesses.

    We’ve been spending a few months examining the local impact of the Recovery Act — past stories are here and here. I’ve also been bookmarking useful resources through Diigo — feel free to check out my real-time list of handy websites.

    For the latest story, we mostly relied on data you can download directly from Recovery.gov, the website of the Recovery Board. The data doesn’t have a “county” category, but you can match the zip code of each award with the zip codes of your county. If you’re simply interested in seeing what kind of stimulus projects are being funded in your county or neighborhood, the Recovery Board offers an interactive map that lets you drill down to the street level. Each stimulus project shows up as a dot — click on it to learn more details.

  • How to keep a secret if you’re a crooked politician in Texas

    County Commissioner Tommy AdkissonHand it to Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson — his feud with the Texas Attorney General and the San Antonio Express-News is, at the very least, exposing a flaw in the state’s open-records law.

    Adkisson doesn’t want to release private e-mails in which he discussed public business. The attorney general’s office told him he has to release the e-mails. However, there’s an important caveat: Adkisson is the one who’s responsible for identifying the e-mails that pertain to the public’s business.

    Adkisson. The guy who doesn’t want to give up any e-mails. He’s the one who’s supposed to go through his Hotmail account or whatever and turn over copies of e-mails that can be deleted with a mouse click.

    In related news, a public interest group, the Corrupt Regime of Associated Politicians (C.R.A.P.) announced today that they’ll be conducting all business on Yahoo! e-mail accounts.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • Open records quiz: Can officials question your motives and withhold documents from you?

    County Commissioner Tommy AdkissonCheck out this open-records story by Josh Baugh: A Bexar County official wants to sue the attorney general in an effort to withhold e-mails from the San Antonio Express-News — because the official believes the newspaper is biased:

    Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson refuses to comply with a Texas attorney general’s ruling that ordered him to release e-mails in his private accounts that contain public information. This week he instructed the Bexar County district attorney’s office to sue the AG.

    The San Antonio Express-News submitted an open-records request under the Texas Public Information Act on Feb. 17, seeking all e-mails between Adkisson and grass-roots toll opponent Terri Hall regarding business of Bexar County and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, of which Adkisson is chairman.

    The request sought e-mail correspondence from Adkisson’s county-provided e-mail address as well as from two private accounts he maintains. The newspaper is seeking the e-mails because they would offer insight into Adkisson’s management style at the MPO.

    The story raises two issues that ought to trouble open-records advocates:

    One is that public officials are keenly aware that their government e-mails are public documents, and they are turning to private e-mail accounts to conduct government business.

    The other is Adkisson’s explanation for seeking to withhold his e-mails from the newspaper: He believes the Express-News is biased and has a pro-toll road agenda.

    Even if Adkisson’s claim were true, the point is irrelevant when it comes to public information. In Texas, a government record is either public, or it isn’t. In order for an agency to withhold a record, it must cite a legal exemption. For example, a section of the Texas Public Information Act says investigative files of law enforcement agencies don’t have to be made public.

    The motives of the person requesting the information has no bearing on whether a document is public. In fact, under the law, officials aren’t even supposed to ask why someone wants the information. Otherwise, government officials could withhold everything from the public simply by saying they don’t trust the people asking for the information. Or they could play favorites and give information to preferred journalists and bloggers.

    So now the county is going to spend taxpayer money on a legal effort to withhold information from taxpayers. Maybe Josh can find out how much money the county will spend on the case — assuming no one questions his motives for asking.

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