By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS
Assigned Judge Leonel Alejandro has set a Feb. 6 jury trial for San Benito Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees President Michael A. Vargas.
The decision took place on Monday at the Cameron County Court At Law #5 in Brownsville after an unclear and confusing situation faced by some media reporters who had been told the arraignment had been relocated to a different courtroom.
In the end, the decision took place at Court At Law #5 where presiding Judge Estela Chavez-Vasquez recused herself from the case without providing reasons.
Victoria Cisneros, a public information officer in the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, said that when an arraignment is waived, the defendant does not have to enter a plea and rather gives the judge the choice to set a trial.
Cisneros also said Judge Alejandro set announcements for Jan. 17.
“Remember: going into announcements, if someone asks for a continuance, it’s possible the trial could get pushed back,” Cisneros said. “Since the arraignment was waived, there was no plea answered.”
Alejandro also sustained that Vargas equip his vehicle with a breath alcohol ignition interlock device ruled in a previous court order Oct. 1. The interlock device also has to feature a camera.
Recently, prosecutors upgraded Vargas’s DWI charges from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor due to the high content of alcohol found on his body.
Cisneros said that blood draws generally take months because of the Texas Department of Public Safety lab backlog. She said they usually file DWI cases before receiving the blood draw results.
“In the Vargas case, we originally filed it as a DWI first,” read a statement issued by the DA’s office a couple of weeks ago. “Subsequent to our filing, we received the blood draw results. Because the blood draw was 15% or higher, it counts as a DWI second.”
In the Cameron County Public Portal, there is a motion entered Nov. 13 in the comment section that reads, “State’s motion to clarify defendant’s motion to suppress.”
On Nov. 5, the same public portal also shows a motion to suppress and “notice to state of defendant’s request for a speedy trial.”
The NEWS attempted to reach Vargas’s legal attorney Dan Sanchez on Monday to comment on whether his client is seeking to suppress any previous DWI arrests but to no avail.
Vargas was arrested on July 5 in Harlingen after a concerned citizen called the police in reference to an intoxicated driver. A police report obtained by the News indicates that Vargas, 32, was found “sleeping behind the wheel of a black passenger vehicle,” around 2 a.m.
The incident occurred along the 1500 block of N. Ed Carey St. in the parking lot of a Taco Bell.