Jury to begin deliberations in Elizondo trial

Assistant District Attorney Art Teniente reads aloud from the six-count indictment as defense attorney Eddie Lucio and former Brownsville fire chief Carlos Elizondo stand during proceedings at the 107th state District Court Tuesday morning for the first day of trial of former Brownsville fire chief Carlos Elizondo. Elizondo faces six counts of computer security breach that pertain to allegations that he accessed the Brownsville Fire Department Emergency Reporting System while under suspension. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Jury deliberations will begin today in the trial of former Brownsville fire chief Carlos Elizondo who is being tried on six counts of computer security breach.

Opening statements and testimony from five witnesses occurred Tuesday with an audience of more than 50 people sitting in the court room.

Elizondo is charged with six counts of computer security breach that pertain to allegations he accessed the Brownsville Fire Department Emergency Reporting System while suspended by the city and when he did not have consent of the City of Brownsville to access the reporting system.

The trial is being heard before 107thstate District Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr.

During the trial, Elizondo’s family and friends sat together, some of them holding hands, while defense attorney Eddie Lucio addressed the jury and explained to them how the case is “wicked” because the City did not inform Elizondo he was not supposed to access the system. He argued that there is no written rule that states when someone is under suspension they can’t access it.

“(Prosecutors) say that there’s a rule that he’s not supposed to access but here’s the thing: nobody turned off his access,” Lucio said. “The new fire chief, Jarrett Sheldon, never told anybody to turn it off, but you know what he did do? He said ‘I need for you just to downgrade it’ in other words, the only thing he ever told to anybody was: don’t shut it off, just downgrade it so that now he only has access to view … The evidence is going to show you that there’s no rule written down anywhere for this.”

Elizondo, wearing a blue tie and coat, sat quietly during the trial while wiping tears from his eyes. During court recesses, he would go and sit with his family and hug his children.

Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Arturo Teniente said even though there’s no written rule, Elizondo received a letter of suspension that states when in suspension he should not perform any official duties. Teniente added that when accessing the system there are “pop-ups” warnings which state not continue without authorization.

“ If you’re suspended, you don’t need access to these reports. After all, everybody knows what suspended means, right? Even a kid from fifth grade knows what suspended means,” Teniente said. “In fact, a pop-up shows up that warns you and tells you specifically that there are criminal penalties for accessing this without authorization.”

The complaint to investigate Elizondo was filed by current Fire Chief Jarrett Sheldon. Sheldon testified that even though the two suspension letters issued to Elizondo did not go into specifics, one of them states to not perform official duties.

Lucio suggested Sheldon holds a grunge against Elizondo because they both applied for the fire chief position when Elizondo was selected and Sheldon, who held a higher rank, was “passed over.”

“ The same person who was passed over, is the same person who filed the complaint against (Elizondo) for this,” Lucio said.

Lucio attempted to submit as evidence a photograph of Sheldon standing outside Elizondo’s office, while he was still fire chief, with a sticker on his forehead that says “you’re fired.” Elizondo’s head can be seen in the background inside the office. Although Euresti did not allow the photo into evidence, it will be available to use during the appeal process should Elizondo be found guilty.

Sheldon testified the photo “was just a random joke in the office, it didn’t have anything to do with the chief at that time.”

Other witnesses called were Juan Alvarez, detective with the Brownsville Police Department; Cesar Pedraza, deputy fire chief with the Brownsville Fire Department; Josh Perez, assistant director for human resources at the City of Brownsville and Sam Ortega, assistant chief at BFD.

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday with the charge for the jury and deliberations.