Former official back in court after DA amends indictment

After more than four years, Sullivan City’s former police chief is still battling charges of abuse of official capacity and theft by a public servant.

Miguel Martinez, 39, is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing Thursday morning in his first hearing since the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office amended the indictment against the former official, per order of an appeals court.

Martinez is accused of allowing former Sullivan City police officer Angel De La Mora to take marijuana from the evidence storage room while the officials were cleaning it on May 21, 2015.

At a hearing in the case, a Sullivan City Police Department sergeant named Daniel Duran testified that he, Martinez, investigator Reynaldo Cortes and De La Mora were cleaning the evidence storage room when he “observed De La Mora place ‘some green leafy substance into a bottle and he closed the cap on it.’”

De La Mora was arrested as well and eventually entered a guilty plea on a count of theft and a count of abuse of official capacity for two years probation and surrendered his law license.

That case against Martinez, however, proved more difficult to prosecute as state District Judge Mario E. Ramirez quashed the indictment on Nov. 1, 2016, because there was a lack of evidence as to the value of the marijuana, according to the appeals court.

The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office appealed that ruling and on April 12, 2018, the 13th Court of Appeals sided with the prosecution and sent the case back to Ramirez.

But there was a caveat.

In Martinez’s original motion to quash the indictment, his former attorney David A. Higdon, asked that if Ramirez decided not to quash the indictment that the judge order the DA’s office to specifically allege the value of the marijuana in counts two and three of the indictment, which are the abuse of official capacity charges.

On Sept. 16, prosecutors did just that, amending those charges — in handwriting on the actual indictment — to include that the value was more than $500 but less than $1,500 in count two.

In count three, the indictment was included to allege that Martinez is charged for “failing to report or prevent the removal of marijuana” as opposed to “allowing the removal of marijuana.”

The issue of the value of the marijuana is important to the case because that’s how authorities are able to charge Martinez with a state-jail felony in the theft charge.

While theft worth $500 or more but less than $1,500 is usually a Class A misdemeanor, since Martinez was a public servant, the offense is elevated, according to the appeals ruling.