Judge orders bondsmen to try to mediate Omar Guerrero case

Former Hidalgo County District Clerk Omar Guerrero appears in the Hidalgo County Jail courtroom to face charges of possession of between 4 and 200 grams of cocaine and tampering with the identification of a rifle during his arraignment Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — A judge has ordered four bondsmen to enter into mediation with the district attorney’s office to see if an agreement can be reached on what to do about the $1 million bond posted for ex-district clerk Omar Guerrero.

District Judge Noe Gonzalez gave the owners of Torres Bail Bonds, David’s Bail Bonds, Discount Bail Bonds and Corpus Bail Bonds until Dec. 19 to negotiate a settlement with the DA’s Office, which is seeking to have the bond forfeited to the county since Guerrero has failed to show up to court for the past five years.

Guerrero was arrested on a possession of a controlled substance charge in May 2013 after Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies discovered more than 100 grams of cocaine in his residence.

Justice of the Peace Homer Jasso Sr. set his bond at $1 million — an unusually high amount for a second degree felony charge — because Guerrero, who served as Hidalgo County district clerk from 2005 to 2006, had a history of attempting to escape prosecution after posting bond. In 2006, Guerrero fled to Mexico for two months after posting bond on charges tied to a sexual assault case, of which he was later acquitted, according to Monitor archives.

Guerrero managed to post the $1 million with the help of four bond companies, with each company contributing amounts ranging between $120,000 and $350,000.

Guerrero, who is widely believed to be hiding in Mexico, was a no-show at his May 30, 2013 arraignment hearing in the 398th District Court and again at his June 7, 2016 re-arraignment hearing after the DA’s Office asked then District Judge Aida Salinas Flores to restart the forfeiture process due to paperwork errors. The case was transferred to the 370th District Court last year.

Attorneys for bondsmen Elesvia “Ellie” Torres, incoming Hidalgo County Precinct 4 commissioner; David Torres, Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem; Artemio De La Fuente, a local attorney; and Arnaldo Corpus filed motions for summary judgement in September, seeking to relieve themselves of any liability on the bond. Gonzalez heard oral arguments on their motions during a Monday hearing.

At the heart of the issue is whether Salinas Flores properly issued an arrest warrant for Guerrero during the 2016 re-arraignment hearing.

Armando Guerra, who represents the Torreses and De La Fuente, argued the judge failed to do so, while Corpus’ attorney Oscar Alvarez maintained that although the judge issued a warrant, she erred by not specifying which bond company it applied to.

Prosecutor Eric Schreiber’s position is that the warrant was valid for all four companies.

If the parties are unable to come to an agreement via mediation, Gonzalez said he would make a ruling on the bondsmen’s motions for summary judgement by early next year.

“The uniqueness of this case stems from the proposition that you’ve got multiple bondsmen on the same defendant for the same charge,” the judge told the parties during the hearing, telling them he thought both sides have a lot to gain by trying to resolve the case.

“If the county, for example, has to litigate this and go into an appeal process, they’ve already spent an enormous amount of time (and) I don’t know how much of that will pair down whatever money they may have been entitled to at one point or another; but certainly they will take that into account when they’re attempting to negotiate this case,” he said. “Likewise, I think the bondsmen need to respond because their bonds and bonding ability is being basically choked right now by this process. You’ve got these bonds holding on to a big portion of what they may be able to utilize to continue their bonding company.”

Gonzalez suggested the parties use Fernando Mancias, the incoming 93rd District Court Judge, as a mediator.

“It is unfortunate that this is not an open-and-shut case and requires the use of attorneys and their time and the money that is having to be spent on these attorneys, but that’s a necessity of this case and hopefully you all get it resolved,” he said. “If not, well you will be appealing my ruling, either one side or the other will appeal it.”