Trial of alleged drug robbery reset

EDINBURG — The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office apologized Monday to the court and to two defense attorneys representing a 20-year-old murder suspect over a motion for a gag order that was worded incorrectly.

Chief of Felonies O.J. Esquivel made the apology on the eve of jury selection for Peter Isiah Uvalle, an Alamo resident accused of shooting and killing Jonathan Joseph Alcala on Dec. 15, 2017, during an argument over Xanax.

Esquivel said the motion, which was filed after The Monitor published a story detailing how an investigator with the Pharr Police Department was fired for inappropriate contact with a witness in the case, was intended to be preventative and that the wording in it was incorrect.

That motion sought to prevent defense attorneys Savannah Angel Gonzalez and Lucia Regalado from continuing to grant interviews, comment or make statements to the media or to make any statements about the case on the internet or social media until the case concludes.

The newspaper learned of the termination in an open court hearing and no other details about the inappropriate contact have been described in open court.

The motion for a gag order had been set to be heard Monday morning, but Esquivel said it would not be urged.

Gonzalez and Regalado filed a motion for sanctions in response to that motion. On Monday morning, they told state District Judge Bobby Flores they wanted a public apology, which they received.

As for Uvalle’s trial, the state announced it’s ready, but the defense asked for a short continuance, telling Flores that on Dec. 20, prosecutors turned over 40,000 more documents and videos that might be used as evidence.

Flores granted the continuance.

In a filing last week, prosecutors revealed that Alcala and Uvalle were involved with Facebook group chats for local drug dealers and buyers. That filing also alleges that Uvalle committed a series of aggravated robberies of members of the Facebook group chats.

Uvalle’s cousin, 28-year-old Omar Perez Garcia, is also charged with Alcala’s murder.

According to police, Garcia drove Uvalle to Alcala’s residence before he shot at Alcala.

A third man, 22-year-old Pharr resident Santiago Alonso Aguirre, was at the house with Alcala and shot back at Garcia and Uvalle, according to police.

Aguirre is charged with tampering with physical evidence, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a count of manufacturing and delivering a controlled substance.

All three men have entered not guilty pleas to the charges.

mreagan@themonitor.com