BROWNSVILLE — The judge presiding over the state’s case against Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre Jr. denied two motions by Yzaguirre’s defense team at a pretrial hearing yesterday.
Defense attorneys Robert Garza and Myles Garza had requested that investigators’ sting-operation video recordings and all evidence related to them be suppressed due to “prosecutorial misconduct.”
Specifically, according to the defense, translations of all the recordings had not been provided to the defense by July 1 as ordered by the court.
Prosecutors based their indictment of Yzaguirre on a portion of the recordings that they contend depicts illegal activity, essentially bribes in exchange for registering vehicles.
Yzaguirre is charged with four counts of bribery, which is a second-degree felony; engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony; and official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
The prosecution, represented by Cameron County assistant district attorneys Peter Gilman and Edward Sandoval, said all translations of recordings related to the charges in the indictment, translations that will be presented during trial, had been provided to the defense.
The defense argued that lack of access to complete translations of every recording hampers their ability to serve their client since they might contain exculpatory evidence. Prosecutors said translating the recordings was extremely difficult and is taking much longer than expected.
However, citing the Texas Rules of Evidence Rule 1009, Senior State District Judge Manuel Banales said only translations that the prosecution planned to present to a jury were required to be provided to the defense counsel. Banales placed the burden of translating the remaining recordings on the defense team itself.
Banales also denied a motion by the defense requesting the name and address of every tax office employee interviewed by prosecutors or law enforcement officers in the Yzaguirre case. The defense had argued that those employees might also provide exculpatory evidence, and that it needed a list of the names in order to conduct its own investigation.
Prosecutors said they did not think it was necessary to turn over the names, since the interviews produced no evidence or statements they planned to use in the case against Yzaguirre.
In dismissing the motion, Banales cited Article 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which he said required that prosecutors turn over only the names of those it planned to call on during trail.
Banales set another pretrial hearing for Oct. 21 and the trial date for Nov. 14.
Yzaguirre and other tax office employees were arrested in January following a two-year investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety dubbed “Operation Dirty Deeds.”