Peñitas man accused of kidnapping, murder, doesn’t want photo taken

McALLEN — The attorney for a 26-year-old Peñitas resident wants a judge to prohibit news media from photographing or broadcasting her client’s proceedings from inside the courtroom.

Defense attorney Nereyda Morales-Martinez filed a motion to restrict publicity on behalf of Julio Cesar De Leon, who is charged with capital murder, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana.

De Leon is charged along with 28-year-old Edna Rivera and 20-year-old Alfredo Huerta, both of Mission, over accusations that the trio kidnapped and murdered 23-year-old Fernando Garza Jr. on July 24.

Both Rivera and De Leon are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning.

The motion to restrict publicity in De Leon’s case seeks to restrict news media from covering his case in multiple ways, including an order preventing interviews with De Leon.

De Leon is also asking for restrictions during pre-trial hearings, jury selection and at trial preventing the photographing, televising or broadcasting of potential jurors and jurors in the case; any proceedings in or from the courtroom or in such proximity as to disturb the order or decorum of the court; and from going beyond the “bar” of the court without a law license.

His case is being held in the 430th state District Court, which routinely allows news media access to take video, audio and photographs from the courtroom’s gallery.

De Leon’s attorney also wants an order prohibiting the recording, video or audio, of attorney-client privileged conversations, whether they are written or oral consultations during the course of pre-trial hearings, jury selection or trial.

She is additionally asking an order restricting news media from initiating communication with De Leon and from recording “any type of communication with the Defendant.”

Furthermore, Morales wants any order preventing photographers from taking photos of De Leon, any witnesses or anyone connected to the proceedings. The motion goes as far as to ask that photographers be restricted from taking photos of De Leon while he is being transported to the courtroom.

And the motion asks that state District Judge Israel Ramon Jr. prohibit journalists “from reporting in detail the evidence obtained by this Court during pretrial hearings, jury selection or trial other than reporting that certain persons testified at said hearings.”

She also asks for a gag order, preventing anyone involved from commenting to media.

Ramon has not ruled on the motion and the court record indicates he will be considering De Leon’s motion for the state’s witness list Wednesday morning.

As for Rivera, she has asked for a bond reduction. Rivera is currently being held on $580,000 in bonds for charges of capital murder, possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana.

Huerta is not scheduled to appear in court until early December.

Probable cause affidavits for the defendants’ arrest allege that Rivera, De Leon and Huerta bound the hands of Garza and another man Rivera only knew as “Gordo” inside Rivera’s Mission residence.

She told authorities that she did not go with De Leon and Huerta to an orchard where authorities allege De Leon shot Garza.

The victim’s father, Fernando Garza Sr., encountered Huerta while searching for his son, who at the time was only considered missing, and Huerta told him that he and a man named Luis Domingo Dominguez had been kidnapped, according to probable cause affidavits.

“(Huerta) stated that (De Leon) had shot and killed Fernando in an orchard and that he and (Dominguez) managed to escape, according to the charging documents.

Investigators recovered two duffle bags containing marijuana, Xanax and methamphetamine from Rivera’s residence.

All three suspects remain incarcerated.