Sunday, January 27, 2008

Further Down the Rabbit Hole: Bastrop Sheriff accepted bribe from man accused of illegal gambling operation

The string of recent corruption stories coming out of Texas cities and law enforcement around the state makes me think the topic nearly deserves its own independent blog: No doubt you could productively focus on the topic full time. Part of me feels good that these cases are being prosecuted, since we're now seeing them with so much greater frequency. On the other hand, they just keep coming, and part of me is beginning to wonder exactly how deep this rabbit hole goes?

Last week, former Bastrop County Sheriff Richard Hernandez added his name to the ignoble list of corrupt Sheriffs, chiefs, and other law enforcement officials who've pled guilty to corruption charges in the recent past. Reported the Austin Statesman ("Former Bastrop County Sheriff, Commissioner plea guilty to corruption charges," Jan. 23):
Former Bastrop County Sheriff Richard Hernandez and County Commissioner David Goertz, both accused of misusing public money, pleaded guilty Tuesday to corruption charges under plea deals that require Hernandez to serve jail time and Goertz to resign from office.

Both men admitted to using taxpayer resources, including county equipment, vehicles, materials, inmate labor, facilities and credit accounts, for their personal benefit, under the plea arrangements, which were negotiated with the Texas attorney general's office. ...

According to his plea agreement, Hernandez will spend 90 days in jail, will be on probation for 10 years, will forfeit his peace officer's license and will pay the county $16,000 in restitution. The county will also receive $3,750 that Hernandez deposited in a court restitution account after his indictment. The money was intended to repay the county for materials used to build barbecue pits that Hernandez was accused of selling for personal profit.

Hernandez, 52, served as sheriff from January 1997 until he resigned in May after his indictment.

The most serious allegations against Hernandez involved a scheme to pay for a new pickup for his personal use that he arranged with a convicted drug dealer who is accused of running an illegal gambling operation in Bastrop County.

Once may be an isolated incident, but twice is a pattern and I'll bet this won't be the last case we hear in Texas of local officials exacting las mordidas from local gambling outfits. Taking bribes to protect a gambling operation is what recently brought down the Laredo police chief and several of his officers.


Anonymous said...

How come the commissioner didn't get much punishment by the AG?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Neither of them did, really. 90 days for a Sheriff taking gratuities from a gambling outfit is pretty small potatoes, too, as sentences go. I can't say why - it seems like a pretty lenient reaction all the way around.