Tuesday, December 18, 2007
CELIS MOUNTING HIS DEFENSE TO CIVIL AND CRIMINAL CASES
By Homero Villarreal
Since the last detailed report of the battle in Civil and Criminal Courts between Celis, the Nueces County D.A., the Attorney General’s Office, the State Bar of Texas and various law firms and lawyers much has happened.
Celis was indicted by a Nueces County jury but denies any wrongdoing . Moreover, facts reveal that Celis served his country with distinction in the armed forces and he himself was quoted saying this in front of Judge Manuel Banales during his arraignment. He also indicated he was being treated as a second class citizen by the District Attorney. The Defenzor’s independent investigation has revealed some facts and also proposes some theories that have validation as to why there is a full force attack on Celis.
In the last detailed report in October of 2007 Defenzor has uncovered the extent of Celis political involvement but has not uncovered any violations in his giving candidates money. Many events are unfolding that connect with the accusations being lodged against Celis. Chief of which is the rapid involvement of the Attorney General and the State Bar of Texas and the mounting pressure on the Nueces County District Attorney’s office led by long time D.A. Carlos Valdez. Valdez has convened the grand jury on more than one occasion on this matter based on the reported amount of testimony that may exist. The conservatives may have seized this opportunity not to hurt Celis but rather to exert pressure in the final solution of moving forward with Republicans overtaking key positions in government here on the local level. It is not overreaching to reach the conclusion that Celis and Watts were key figures in the Democratic party who gave heavily. Watts running for office reportedly made many trial lawyers nervous and they feared, much to their worst confirmations being confirmed, that Watts running would yet again lead to the targeting of trial lawyers and those associated with them.
Could the Republicans use the Celis situation to win over Nueces County and other surrounding counties? Only time will tell. What the Defenzor has discovered is that Celis is facing battles on the civil and criminal front but has an impressive team of attorneys. On the criminal front he has ex-Assistant United States Attorney and prominent political figure Tony Canales. Canales is known not only as a heavy weight in the courtroom but a feared man in many political circles. This attorney and his office have been very tightlipped about not only their representation of Celis but also of the defenses which would create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors in such a case. Undoubtedly, Canales longstanding power in political circles may also afford Celis and his defense team a measure of protection and a fighting chance of avoiding successful criminal prosecution. According to one criminal attorney who wished to remain anonymous, “reasonable doubt is the highest burden in a court of law…it’s literally taking the football down the field to the one yard line or more…the State would have to prove that Celis intentionally did all the acts he’s accused of beyond that reasonable doubt and that overcome the mitigating circumstances or defenses Celis has in a jury’s eyes…with an attorney like Canales and his legal team, well, you know, his track record in obtaining results and his aggressive style that works and which makes him one of the most sought after criminal defense attorneys here locally and by prominent figures outside Texas is one of the things Celis has going for him in this fight.”
On the political contribution front: Many politicians are reportedly “giving back” the campaign contributions Celis gave. Interestingly they are not giving them to Celis for use for his legal fees but rather giving them away elsewhere. Still some politicians don’t have the money to give back or have not been scrutinized. Because of the amount of campaign contributions will it only be a matter of time before those who received contributions be scrutinized?. Those who enjoyed the contributions are nowhere to be found now that Celis stands indicted of alleged crimes nor have any come to his aid. The Defenzor has also uncovered that Celis aided the Catholic Church and various charities and organizations with his money and no one has spoken out in his defense in this regard either. The situation may apparently be too hot to handle even for the might of the Catholic church or prominent politicians who do not want to put under the massive spotlights.
IS RACE AN ISSUE?
Still others believe that race may be a factor. One prominent political activist believes this to be true. “Every time you see a Mexicano get a leg up in society or become a threat by donating generously to campaigns you see people coming out of the woodwork to come after them.” The Defenzor has long held that there does exist a disparity in the treatment of Hispanics and African Americans in prisons, the Justice system and elsewhere. Historically the Patron system of politics in South Texas has frowned on Hispanic political bosses unless they were allied with big name “Americanos” or are controlled by bigger politicos. Is Celis being targeted because of his race as one factor? Could he being a Mexicano giving generously to the Democratic party have put him on the chopping block of many conservatives who want to see the Republican party proliferate in South Texas? The lines between race and being prosecuted can become blurred and no longer can we as a society cry racism and point to it as clearcut- racism has gone underground in many instances and is more covert and harder to discern.
THE MEDIA BLITZ ON CELIS
It goes without saying that Defenzor as well as other media sources have investigated the Celis case and have written and commented on it repeatedly over the past several weeks. The Texas Lawyer along with the San Antonio Express News initiated the stories and much of the information outside of South Texas came on to the Associate Press Wire from these sources as well as the Texas Lawyer story of early October 2007. The commercials by Thomas J. Henry which were the “shot heard round South Texas” which started the investigation, were also a very powerful factor. Those commercials have now been somewhat edited and do not proclaim that Celis is not licensed anywhere in the world. One man on the street said, “You ask anyone and they have heard about the Celis case, but you know it is extremely difficult to get a fair shake in Court if the media has gone crazy on it throughout the state and nation. Many people’s minds are made up and it shouldn’t be that way but it is. The newspapers and TV try and convict someone before they get their side of the story out. When I saw Channel 6 one night one of the reporters gave me the impression like the guy was already guilty and he was just posting bond! I heard the man has a daughter and a young son. This must be hard on them. I can only imagine. Whether the guy is innocent or guilty the truth will come out.” The fine line between reporting news and creating a change of thinking of potential jurors who may decide a person’s fate is indeed a difficult thing to manage between the media and the justice system. The need to know information from the press for the people and the need to prevent creating preconceived notions about guilt and innocence are very hard to balance in our society and this rings true with the Celis case.
The Defenzor has learned that to combat the massive media onslaught Celis and his legal team may launch their own responses to the media attack through a prominent public relations firm and also may put their side of the story out there. None of the lead attorneys on the civil or criminal legal defense team could be reached for comment to confirm this.
WHAT DOES THE COURT SYSTEM HOLD FOR CELIS AND OTHERS INVOLVED?
The Defenzor’s research of public records reveals that as many as 5 different civil actions or more are ongoing including countersuits by CGT and Celis individually. These civil actions may uncover through the litigation process key information which will detail the events of CGT’s dealings and whether or not there were irregularities in those dealings. Much of this litigation may take years to develop. Many attorneys fear that the details which may not come out in the criminal side either through the secrecy of the grand jury or suppression in the trial could come out because of the civil cases and involve attorneys who had dealings with CGT or Celis. For right now it is Celis who is “taking the fall” for any alleged criminal behavior.
Meanwhile, the criminal case here in Nueces County shall be presided over by Judge Luijen from San Antonio, Texas who was assigned the case by Manuel Banales. Luijen is reportedly a judge who has presided over other highly publicized cases, one of which was recently in Victoria. Luijen also is known as a tough judge who does not put up with inefficiency and moves his cases along. Defenzor is confirming whether or not Luijen was a former D.A. himself in San Antonio.
As details about the criminal and civil cases present themselves the Defenzor shall be watching and reporting.