By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
A jury found San Benito Mayor Joe H. Hernandez not guilty Tuesday of making a terroristic threat against a former city commissioner.
Following three trial postponements, testimony was heard on Monday, Nov. 4, and Tuesday, Nov. 5, before the jurors announced the not guilty verdict, which dismisses the terroristic threat charge, a class B misdemeanor, against Hernandez. The jury came to the decision following a little less than 30 minutes of deliberation.
“It was very stressful,” said Hernandez following the trial. “I’m happy. I’m glad that it’s over and that it turned out the way it did, because I always claimed my innocence and the jury proved it. It went to show that everything was politically-motivated. I will not mention any names, but it was mentioned in the courts. I don’t want it to come from me, but it’s the same people that have been trying to detain me and discredit me.”
Ricardo R. Rodriguez, a former San Benito City Commissioner who served from 1975-79, filed a report with the San Benito Police Department on Nov. 6, 2012, alleging that on Oct. 27 of that year Hernandez parked outside his San Benito residence and took photographs of the home.
According to the police report, Hernandez allegedly threatened, “I’m gonna get rid of you and (Alfonso) Benavides, and I’m gonna burn you out of your houses after I’m through with what’s going on with me.”
Hernandez remained adamant that the allegations made by Rodriguez were politically motivated following the outcome of the trial.
“It’s just a whole bunch of lies,” said Hernandez on Tuesday. “The names that were mentioned in the courts were people that were after me from day one, since I became mayor of this city. It’s just an act of jealousy and evil against me for reasons I don’t know.”
As previously reported in the San Benito News, attorney Jan Cassidy has argued that the mayor’s alleged terroristic threat was an act of retaliation against Rodriguez and her client, San Benito resident Alfonso Benavides, for the latter filing an ethics complaint against the mayor in 2011. The complaint, which accused Hernandez of abuse of official capacity, eventually led to the mayor’s grand jury indictment and subsequent one-year probation by entering into the DA’s office pretrial diversion (PTD) program. As stipulated in the PTD agreement, Special Prosecutor Ruben Peña will dismiss a tampering with evidence charge associated with the ethics complaint while the abuse of official capacity charge will be dismissed by the state should Hernandez complete his probation.
Despite not being directly involved in Hernandez’s indictment, Rodriguez alleged that he was threatened by the mayor due to the belief that Benavides resided with the ex-commissioner.
It was on March 18 that the DA’s office filed a complaint signed by Reynaldo J. Pineda, an investigator with the DA’s office, and undersigned by Assistant District Attorney Carlos Martinez, pursuing the terroristic threat charge against Hernandez.
The DA’s complaint stated, “[Pineda] has good reason to believe and does believe that on or about the 27th day of October, 2012, A.D., and before the making and filing of this complaint, in Cameron County, Texas, Joe H. Hernandez, the defendant, did then and there intentionally or knowingly threaten to commit an offense involving violence to person, namely, that the defendant was going to kill the victim, with intent to place Ricardo Robles Rodriguez in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.”
Attempts to reach Cassidy for comment were unsuccessful as of presstime Tuesday.