This is not the sort of news one wants to make as a candidate.
Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos vowed Monday to fight a federal indictment filed against him and his former law partner Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio.
Villalobos, 44, who is also seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to represent the newly created Congressional District 34, said that in his seven years as district attorney he has always acted in the best interest of the people of Cameron County and “I have never attempted to use this office for my own financial gain.”
A federal grand jury handed up a 12-count indictment against Villalobos and Lucio, 43, charging them with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act.
Lucio is not related to the state legislators of the same name.
Villalobos was also charged with seven counts of extortion and three counts of honest services fraud. Lucio is charged with three counts of extortion and two counts of honest services fraud.
Their case is tied to that of former 404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas, who last year pleaded guilty to racketeering. His sentencing is scheduled for later this year.
Attorney Joel Androphy of Houston and Norton A. Colvin Jr. of Brownsville represent Villalobos.
“This is (only) a piece of paper,” Androphy said of the indictment against Villalobos, adding that the defense has not been given the opportunity to respond to it, to rebut allegations or to speak to the grand jury.
“It is one side of the story. He will be vindicated,” Androphy added.
Colvin said that Villalobos, “like any citizen, is presumed innocent. We really believe that as this develops, he will be shown to be innocent.”
Attorney John T. Blaylock of Harlingen, who represents Lucio, said, “My client is innocent. The indictment was obtained by using people the government coerced into saying things. It’s a very weak indictment.”
Blaylock said he looks forward to trying the case. “It’s going to be kind of fun. It’s going to fall apart. They haven’t done their homework,” Blaylock said.
Blaylock maintained that, “we’re here because the government has its dancing chickens” — who are trying to protect family members from indictment — adding that as was done in carnivals, as the heat on a hot plate was turned up, the chickens dance.
“They’ve had a lot of heat, and now they are performing,” Blaylock said of Limas and other defendants who are cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Well, we’ll see about that. Not surprisingly, some people are calling on him to resign.
County Judge Carlos Cascos, a Republican serving his second term, said the issue is not partisan politics, rather a question of whether the accused district attorney can operate an “effective and efficient” office while facing a 34-page federal indictment alleging years of corruption.
“I don’t believe he can,” Cascos said Tuesday. “It’s tough. That particular office that deals with all kinds of crimes at different levels whether criminal or domestic – you got to focus.”
Cascos added that the indictment could cast a pall on the department.
“It could bring into suspect some of the cases that may be brought up, maybe some of the prior cases,” he said. “I mean, I think defense lawyers are looking at some of these cases and seeing if anything may have looked kind of … quirky.”
Hard to argue with the reasoning, though if his lawyers really can back up their big talk then I can understand why he wouldn’t resign. For what it’s worth, Jerry Eversole didn’t resign as County Commissioner until nine months after he’d been indicted by the feds, not long before he pleaded out. Of course, any time you have to cite Jerry Eversole as a reason for doing something, the odds are pretty good you’re doing it wrong.
What a mess. The FBI’s press release is here, and a copy of the indictment is here. That first story I linked has a lot of the details. I interviewed two other candidates for CD34, Ramiro Garza and Anthony Troiani; I did try to reach Villalobos’ campaign early on, but no one ever replied to the email I sent. One other opponent has joined the call for him to resign, and I won’t be surprised if others follow. Like I said, what a mess. BOR and Grits have more.