Friday, June 22, 2012

Does Gilberto Hinojosa have some explaining to do?

In my post wrapping up the Democratic and Republican state conventions two weekends ago, I referenced some things others -- mostly RGV Tea Partiers -- had written about Gilberto Hinojosa, who prior to his election as state party chair served as a district judge in Cameron County.

I discounted most of that as sour grape partisan whining. Now there seems to be more to it than that. People keep getting tried and convicted who were involved in the sordid affair. Details, you say?

-- First, the racketeering trial of attorney Ray Marchan concluded last week with a guilty verdict and included testimony from former state district judge Abel Limas -- who himself pleaded guilty to racketeering last year -- which identified both Hinojosa and state Representative Rene Oliveira as pay-to-players. The excerpt:

Limas himself has offered compelling testimony, describing how he made ends meet on a judge's salary by squeezing attorneys for a piece of the action. What emerged was a convoluted explanation of friends who helped him versus friends who bribed him — and some major Cameron County name-dropping.

The ones he said helped him included state Rep. Rene Oliveira, heard in a phone conversation telling Limas: “I've got my pants on — on my knees,” and former Brownsville Mayor Eddie Treviño, who slipped him $2,000 as a campaign donation that went unreported.

Another big name came up in the testimony of Mark Gripka, the FBI agent who began investigating Limas in 2007. According to a Brownsville Herald report from afternoon testimony Wednesday, Gripka said Limas had named former Cameron County judge and newly elected Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa as another who paid him.

Limas said there was in his mind a clear difference between loans and gifts and “bribes,” a word he had to be prodded to use.

-- In the course of researching that, there was also this: an alleged vote-fixing scheme during Hinojosa's tenure as judge. As that allegation is almost two years old, it has all but fallen down the memory hole. So far I can find no public record of whether or how the complaint might have been resolved.

What I'm confused about is how there was no mention of any of this business in the run-up to Hinojosa's election as Democratic state party chair. The establishment in fact lined up behind him in droves, like state representative Joaquin Castro, one of the keynoters at the convention, as well as several other state reps like Oliviera, whose taped telephone conversation here revealed his complicity in the racketeering scheme.

“Man, I need I need a big, big favor,” Oliveira told Limas.

“We f----d up on a case,” Oliveira told Limas, who served as judge of the 404th district from 2001 through the end of 2008.

“We have to try (the case), but I need to buy some more time,” Oliveira said, noting that the firm stood to lose the client.

Oliveira said that attorney Randall Crane, who represented the opposing party, had him “by the b---s.”

Oliveira indicated in the conversation that an associate would attend the hearing and seek more time, and that Crane was going to go “ballistic.”

Oliveira asked Limas to “pretend” not to know. Before indicating to Oliveira that things would work out, Limas told Oliveira that Crane was trying to have attorney Ray R. Marchan sanctioned and that he does not sanction attorneys.

Did I miss the discussion among Democrats about Hinojosa's involvement in these matters? Did the powers-that-be decide it amounted to nothing? Were they so intent on anointing Hinojosa that no amount of scandal would stop them from doing so? Is this just the way politics is run in the Rio Grande Valley and people just turn their head and look the other way every time it goes down?

And if Hinojosa doesn't want to explain anything now, as he begins to implement his overhaul of the Texas Democratic Party... is there anybody else that would? Help a brother out here, please.

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