Judge declares mistrial in home invasion case

BROWNSVILLE — A judge declared a mistrial Monday morning in the case against a man accused in a brazen 2010 home invasion.

Jorge Omar Cervantes, 61, has been on trial since last week in the 197th state District Court in Brownsville. Cervantes is charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated robbery, burglary of a habitation with intent to commit another felony and engaging in a criminal conspiracy.

Judge Migdalia Lopez issued the ruling after an investigator at the Brownsville Police Department turned over files to prosecutors that had been unaccounted for until last week, testimony showed.

Officer Albert Torres told the court that the files, which had originally been stored in the department’s Special Investigative Unit, were being moved to the department’s records office and during that transition he was unable to locate the file. Torres said he found it last Thursday and brought the file over to the prosecution right away.

Cervantes’ attorney, Victor Ramirez, filed a motion for a mistrial later that day. Ramirez argued that the material was too “voluminous” to immediately review.

During the hearing, Ramirez said it included statements about potential witnesses; a polygraph test of a witness who already testified; detailed phone logs belonging to the victim from Dec. 10 and 11, 2010, when the crime occurred; emails from the police department concerning an insurance claim; a pawnshop receipt; and a photo of the vehicle allegedly used in the crime, which Ramirez only learned existed on Monday morning. What happened to the car after the crime was a big question, Ramirez said during the hearing.

He also told the court that there’s much more in the file that he still has to go over in order for Cervantes to have a fair trial.

“It’s an issue we need to deal with … (and the) only effective way is to grant a mistrial,” Ramirez said.

Peter Gilman, who is prosecuting the case for the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, said during the hearing that he didn’t think the development merited a new trial.

“Most of the material in the file folder is repetitious to everything given to Mr. Ramirez,” Gilman said during the hearing.

After granting the mistrial, Lopez said the trial will be scheduled for January 2018.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said the mistrial is unfortunate for everyone involved in the case.

“Nobody likes a mistrial,” Saenz said. “Generally speaking, mistrials are unfortunate for everybody, the courts, the state, the defendant, and the jury as all their time and effort is misspent.”

Authorities accuse Cervantes of breaking into the home of a local doctor in December 2010, holding five people against their will, including the doctor, stealing jewelry from a safe in the home and stealing around $250,000, which the victim was allegedly forced to withdraw from several banks.

Two other suspects in the case, Epigmenio Ahumada and Jorge Ramirez, have been convicted for their roles in the home invasion and are serving 10-year sentences for burglary of a habitation.

Cervantes also rejected an offer Monday from the District Attorney’s Office to recommend a 20-year sentence if he’d enter a guilty plea to burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony.