Friday, August 17, 2007

San Antonio bribery scandal widens: Bexar County Sheriff indicted!

Allegations that a top political aide to Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez (with silver hair at left) accepted bribes from a company that received a jail commissary contract have widened to include an indictment filed yesterday against the Sheriff himself!

(One imagines this will give the Sheriff less leverage with the District Attorney to convince her to allow new jail overcrowding solutions to proceed.)

Lopez, a Democrat, claims the Republican DA (with whom, incidentally, I've frequently disagreed) is pursuing him for partisan reasons. But I tend to doubt the Sheriff would have been indicted if he hadn't so defiantly defended his long-time campaign aide in the face of damning evidence.

Now Sheriff Lopez is on the hook, whatever happens - any opportunity to distance himself from the scandal has passed. According to the San Antonio Express News ("Lopez indicted on three counts," Aug. 17):
The indictments accused Lopez of accepting and failing to report a gift and an "honorarium" — both involving the same 2005 all-expenses paid golfing/fishing trip to Costa Rica — from a company he helped get the contract to run his jail's food commissaries.

In particular, the indictments allege that he solicited and accepted food, lodging, transportation and entertainment, including golfing and fishing, from two officials of Louisiana-based Premier Management Enterprises, which now runs the commissaries. One indictment labels the trip as a gift to a public servant; the other an "honorarium," or informal payment, that "was in consideration for services that the defendant would not have been requested to provide but for defendant's official position and duties." The third charges that he failed to report the gift on his personal financial disclosure form.

Lopez remains in office, as allowed by law for an official under indictment, but if found guilty, Lopez would be automatically disqualified for service and could end up behind bars.

Despite warrants issued for his arrest Thursday, Lopez never had to join his prisoners. After reporting to a judge, he was allowed to remain free on a personal recognizance bond.

The charges are the first to surface as part of a wider-ranging public corruption probe that District Attorney Susan Reed said focuses on the relationship between Premier, Lopez, his longtime campaign manager John Reynolds, members of a nonprofit board the sheriff set up and appointed to run the jail commissaries, and others. Attorneys for Premier did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

After testifying under subpoena for 45 minutes before the grand jury Thursday morning, Lopez said, "I've done nothing wrong."

A Democrat who recently announced he would run for re-election next year, Lopez called the 18-month investigation by Republican Reed "a political witch hunt."
I don't know anything more about the case than what's been reported in the press, but at least we now know for sure that Bexar judges know what a personal bond is and how to issue them. Sometimes I wonder. Misdemeanants in Bexar County who don't happen to be the Sheriff typically aren't so lucky.


Anonymous said...

Ok. Now someone explain why Justice Nathan Hecht has not been indicted for accepting a gift of thousands of dollars worth of free legal services????

Unknown said...

Is it true that a Judge can own or partially own entities who contract as vendors to the facilities where they sentence defendants?

Aramark, SATF, & Bootcamps

Why do the working prisoners take red toxic waste and put it in black garbage sacks mixed with trash and throw em in the dumpster.

That is from very recent report.

Unknown said...

Who tells them to do that?

Anonymous said...

Although I do not agree with many things going on in the DA’s office, DA Susan Reed seems the only one awake in Bexar County. However, I doubt if the judges will do their part and make any effort to clean up this mess, albeit sentencing a corrupted official to jail would actually take some judicial courage since it seems judges tend to overlook a great deal in Bexar County.

For example, the months have dragged on with the adult probation department, and Mr. Fitzgerald is still in place running roughshod over a multimillion dollar business of collecting money for judges and doing nothing to bring equity to his own people in the department. This is why judges do nothing in Bexar County. It is all about the money. I believe Bexar County judges sit in their lavish chambers with their fat salaries and are:

1. Extremely lazy and too comfortable with their positions.
2. Extremely inept and too inexperienced to make hard decisions.

Bexar County lawyers and judges perpetuate their country club arrogance and fail to understand their responsibility to the citizenry. The streets of San Antonio are infested with gangs, drugs, and violence. Its officials continue to run amuck with out any checks and balances. The weight of this problem solely falls on the shoulders of these select few garbed in black.

Concerned citizen

Anonymous said...

While local gangs are killing themselves and pregnent mothers in drive-by's, the sheriff, judges and probation chief act like everything is fine! Maybe in the 6 figure neighborhoods they live in! Why not ask the DA, the Chief probation officer, judges and the sheriff why they aren't taking care of the carnage on the street. The probation department Gang Unit doesn't even do REAL home checks like they used to do. Is it because they or the Chief doesn't care about the blacks and hispanics that are dying in the streets? Why did he take away their guns? Didn't they only have one shooting incident in over 7 tears of carrying guns? It is time the citizens of San Antonio get mad and show their their iritation with those in the courhouse that could care less about us!