Villalobos vows to fight despite calls for resignation - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Villalobos vows to fight despite calls for resignation

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Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:18 pm, Wed Feb 6, 2013.

Although Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos has suggested Armando Villalobos to step down from office following his fed-eral indictment, the Cameron County district attorney is not budging.

Villalobos has said he is not going anywhere and will fight the charges against him.

“I will not step down as county or district attorney and I will finish my term that expires at the end of the year,” Villalobos said at a Monday press conference.

Neither Villalobos nor his Brownsville attorney Norton A. Colvin Jr. could be reached for comment Tuesday to see if Villalobos is reconsidering his decision.

But Juan Angel Guerra, a former Willacy County district attorney who is also challenging Villalobos in the state Democratic pri-mary for congressional District 34, said he will investigate whether he can petition to remove Villalobos.

Villalobos and his former law partner, are named in a 12-count federal indictment. charging them with racketeering. Villalobos is also charged with seven counts of extortion and three counts of honest services fraud.

His former law partner Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio, who is no relation to the state legislators, is charged with three counts of extor-tion and two counts of honest service fraud.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District said federal authorities cannot re-move Villalobos from office. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has declined comment on this issue.

Cascos said in an earlier interview that he would have the Commissioners Court Legal Division investigate whether it can take any action against Villalobos.

An option available under Section 87.013 of the Texas Local Government Code that concerns the removal of county officers from office. General grounds for removal include incompetency, official misconduct or intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking alcohol.

Section 87.015 of the code concerns the removal of a district attorney and states that a written petition must be filed in the county where the DA resides or the county where the alleged cause of removal occurred.

It also states any Texas resident who has lived for six months in the county where the petition is filed may do so, providing the filer is not under indictment.

The petition must be addressed to the district judge of the court in which the petition is filed and must clearly state the grounds alleged for removal, the local government code states.

However, Guerra’s petition might be moot because Guerra is a resident of of Willacy County and thus does not meet the resi-dency requirement. Any petition filed against Villalobos must be filed by a resident of Cameron County.

“When Cascos said that there is nothing that he or Commissioners Court can do is not true. It is a lie. They don’t want to do it, it’s a different story,” Guerra said.

Guerra said that he talked to judges and attorneys in Cameron County and told them that they have an obligation and responsibil-ity to seek Villalobos’ removal from office. He added that people just don’t want to get involved.

“Nobody has the guts to do the right thing,” Guerra said. “You are not going to tell me that judges and attorneys didn’t know what Limas was doing and what Villalobos is accused of doing.”

Guerra, a former Willacy County district attorney, recalled when several of what he characterized as “local clowns” tried to re-move him from office after a state grand jury indicted him in March 2007. He was charged with theft, and attempted theft, and a separate indictment alleging tampering with governmental records, perjury and abuse of official capacity.

Herald archives show that in August 2007, three Willacy County officials signed a petition seeking Guerra’s removal, charging 39 incidents of incompetence, misconduct, and other failings. The petition accused Guerra of failing to perform his duties and using his office to retaliate against citizens and county officials.

The indictments against Guerra were dismissed in October that year, apparently bringing an end also to the petition to remove him from office.

Meanwhile, ironically in June 2008, Villalobos used Section 87.013 in an attempt to remove then-indicted Precinct 1 Constable Saul Ochoa from public office.

The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Ochoa in May 2008 when a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment that charged him with possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

The petition was filed by then DA Office employee David Gonzales III and stated that Ochoa “engaged in the following acts of in-competence or official misconduct justifying his removal from the office of Cameron County Constable Precinct No. 1.”

At that time Villalobos said, “This is procedure we feel that we have to take to protect law enforcement officers across the coun-try. We need to try to restore the public trust in the (Constable’s) office.”

The petition against Ochoa was filed about two weeks prior to his guilty plea to the charges. In September 2008, he was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.

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