Wednesday, August 7, 2013



NUECES COUNTY, TX – District Judge Tom Greenwell was one of the most respected professionals during his career. He was the first Republican in Nueces County to win for a countywide position – which he did as a District Judge. He had a “happy go lucky” attitude.  How he could take a gun inside the chambers of his courtroom and commit self-murder on July 15th caught those that thought they knew him well off guard.
The traditional media and top law enforcement investigators went off on an unorthodox tangent.  After all, it had occurred inside the courthouse.  During the course of the investigation theories were expounded based on rumor and innuendo that transcended the orbit of his life, a life of a simple man who orbited the ritual corridors and habitual floors and conversational circles of the courthouse for thirty-some years on a daily basis. 
It cannot be denied that his stunning timing to self-destruct via suicide left a void of information (mostly of hovering clouds charged with questions). And when such a void exits, rumor-mongering arises as a social phenomenon to fill the void.  And thus it was in the nature of many intransigents to expound fictions and fantasies to fill the void of the collective imagination – to inject a sense of completion mostly to satisfy the palate of those in the audience who have socio-psychological proclivities to appeal to the exotic and/or vicarious gratification. Drop by drop the void was being jam-packed with imaginative scenarios.
 Yet Judge Greenwell’s life and contributions -- after the obsessed exploration into his personal life by some uncaring -- was treated as secondary.  Delving into his personal life became priority.  His professional normative status that Judge Greenwell projected on the stage of his career was not media viral.  The camera was pointed at the shadows in the background: in the back region of the public facade.  They tried to penetrate the veneer of his daily impressions and dig deep into his cloudy chest to try and arrive at something really meaningful or controversial or oppressive.  They discovered in the end that his life resemble that of most of us: “We choose our path and our friends and our entrusted partners and one should not complain about that in the end.” As Judge Greenwall had one cited a proverb to a friend: “One should not complain about the horse if it loses a race; afterall, one chose to bet on it.”
But despite the facts before them – i.e., the investigative journalists and researchers probing into the case. The private life of one of the most respected professionals could not be cloistered anymore – some in the public demanded it.  Many cheered on for someone to identify a target and demonized it for having allegedly rattled his mind and thus broken the fragile glass of Greenwell’s sanity.  The target became Albert Fuentes.  The 36-year old man that lived with Judge Greenwell and whom he referred to as “his son”. 
The flippant and finger-pointing inhumanity grew into a frenzy.  Albert Fuentes – this was the person that was highlighted in bold headlines; this was the “person of interest” accused both implicitly and explicitly of being a blackmailer, a con, a deviant. Words like “extortion” and “squeezing” and “pressure” were tossed around during the investigation by a few representatives investigators of public  and private entities.  Yet if one had kept up with Greenwell’s own sincere statements, one open-minded enough would have arrived at a different conclusion. He had stated in years pass in front of a camera that he had put all his love and compassion and affection in Fuentes to attempt to change the murky course of his life.  Fuentes had worked for Greenwell in the past – during his private practice days.   After that chapter, Greenwell took him in and provided shelter for him at his residence in Flour Bluff.
Still, forces of discontent pressed on.   “How could a conservative Republican such a precarious path?” –there were contradictions that needed to be spinned by politicos also.  Eventually the sacred curtain of Judge Greenwell’s private life was lifted and others joined in the mob to vent cobwebs of misguided moral judgments.  It seemed like secondary excitement (what social scientists call “vicarious gratification”) to many watching TV or reading the output of spins on the press.  Even an echo of a prying bible trumping charlatan pointed to variables too standoffish to sincerely have relevance to the clang that influenced the decisive tenebrific flash, the flash that ignited the courthouse for a few milliseconds and then brought death in a tightfisted micron.  It was as if a light bulb had been switched on and off nippily.  In the last breaths of  Judge Greenwell’s existence, in the last mental images, in the last scribbled notes (a personal will) cited his concern for Albert Fuentes, and thus so left all his possessions to him.  The non-traditional arrangement between Greenwell and Fuentes was not received well by especially by those who like to cast moral stones.
“What was so wrong with the above?” – the varying viewpoints of spectators were also critical.  Judge Greenwell had no relatives in the area; no family to call his own in the purest sense of the societal norms of the day.  One could ask now, in retrospect: “Does it logically follow that he would leave everything on his last testament/will to those closest to him?”. The answer of course is a “no-brainer”.
Even some time before Judge Greenwell has been advised by one his campaign consultants to disassociate himself from Albert Fuentes as much as possible.  Judge Greenwell’s answer (at least uttered to this heartfelt effect): “Would you abandon your son during trying times?” A “mentor” and a “father image” to Fuentes was the way he equated the association.
Judge Greenwell had grew up in the Northeastern part of the U.S.  After high school he attended Georgetown University earning a bachelor’s (with a double major: political science and journalism).  After that he attended University of Texas Law School where he graduated with honors in 1981.  That same year he started a job as a legal researcher with the 13th Court of Appeals.  A few years later he became the head of the legal staff.  In the later 90s he went into private practice -- where he contemplated to run for office and where he met Albert Fuentes (whom he hired as a clerk).
He ran as a Republican for a District Judge position and lost the first time around by about a margin of a thousand votes.  After that Greenwell regrouped and courted various others groups with a bi-partisan leaning.  The base of this new support came from the nifty courting of the courthouse culture – the “courthouse family” as he called it.  He had worked both extensively and diligently for the 13th Court of Appeals and had develop lasting friendship with many a staff member who worked there.  Keep in mind that back then, there was not much of a Republican Party in the expanse. The skeleton of the party was composed of a few who worked tirelessly to make inroads in this traditionally Democratic region.
He alloyed and mobilized his base – also, some doctors had organized politically to defend their interests: how many were the new factors that contributed to the edge he needed to win for office.  Additionally, his research showed that residents who had Democratic leanings under 30 were more likely to cross party lines, and he did capitalize on it.
Greenwell ran again for a district Judge post and won by defeating Martha “Marty” Huerta in 2001, a post he held until the end.   This victory raised the psychology of the regional Republican Party – activist such as Joe Jouell, Lance Bruun, Judge Robert Pate and a few others.  It seemed that overnight the GOP here had grown by leaps and bounds. Various schools of thought joined.  For the first time Republicans began to recruit and assign a demonstrative cluster of precinct chairs.
Judge Greenwell had been the “dove” of the party.  He had been like a meteorite that had lid up the sky for a while in the region.  He seemed to have used the electrifying principles of Tesla to garner bipartisan support.  As a judge he was described as balanced and fair: he could be as soft as a misty cloud in dealing with some who had committed infractions for the first time and as hard as steel with other who had done terrible things. 
He did run for a 13th Court of Appeals post last November, but failed in his bout against Nora Longoria from the Valley.  He was devastated by the loss.  There was no tsunami of Republican votes who ran to the polls to vent their frustration with Democrats – this key variable was not there.  It was somewhat noticeable that Judge Greenwell’s voice seemed to reveal a higher level of anxiety at times.  His finances were in turmoil.  After taking his life, many suggested that hefty payouts to Albert Fuentes and another individuals might be indicators of some sort of extortion.  The matter was delved into by law enforcement – but in the end, when all was said and done, Sheriff Jim Kaelin and his key investigators concluded that the most likely factor that might have pushed him over the edge was enormous debt.
Texas Governor Rick Perry mandated the flags be flown at half-staff in government entities.  Many spoke well of him during his memorial service; others threw parties commemorating his death at local cantinas to try to capitalize on his following now adrift.  Some democrats also voiced the sentiment: “We lost ‘OUR’ Republican”. 
“Why did he take his life in his own chambers?” – this was a reoccurring question of discussion among many a group.  “Was his death symbolic?” – this is another.  Judge Tom Greenwell had spent most of his life at the courthouse and he considered many there as the closest substitution for a family.  This place was the closest thing to a sense of security.  Here he scribbled his last few thoughts on paper; here he made a summary of a summary of how his possessions and properties and other arrangements would be handled.  Here, where he stood in the summit of his career, raised a gun to his head and pulled the trigger exhaling his last breath, a prayer to Albert Fuentes and an adios to his friends.  Here the dove flew to the sky and caressed the face of God with the palm of his hand – ready to face judgment as a humbled would as if it being a mere grain of sand on the beach.
Yet questions linger: “Was there closure to his death?”; “Who will be the new ‘dove’ of the party to keep the bipartisan support?”.  These and other questions linger among activists and think-tanks and amidst the burg.  But it is clear that he left a symbolic message in this manner of suicide:  self-murder in the courthouse, the ultimate symbolic institution and orbit of societal judgement Society had question his private arrangements; he shattered the symbolic figure of the norm: he himself.

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