Sentencing hearing for convicted ex-chief in drug conspiracy case reset

McALLEN — A federal court on Tuesday reluctantly granted a motion for continuance of a sentencing hearing for a former lawman convicted in connection with a drug conspiracy case.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane was seemingly displeased with the petition from Geovani Hernandez’s attorney, McAllen-based David Avalos, for the “the eleventh hour” move, and granted the motion to delay the sentencing hearing until Thursday after first asking to have it held Friday.

“ I don’t like it,” Crane said during the hearing and before granting the motion to delay Hernandez’s sentencing.

Avalos, who represented Hernandez during the trial in March, argued he did not have sufficient time to go over pertinent sentencing hearing documents with his client.

The materials were described in court as attachments that were provided by Hernandez’s family for the purposes of the sentencing hearing; likely documents that would be provided to the court for its consideration before the hearing.

“ Does he need to review these attachments,” Crane asked Avalos.

This despite Hernandez’s incarceration at the East Hidalgo Detention Center since being convicted in March after a four-day trial resulted in a guilty verdict from a jury.

The court asked the government — represented by Kristen J. Rees — its stance on the motion, to which Rees replied they were prepared to go now.

Hernandez, a 44-year-old Weslaco native who appeared slimmer Tuesday morning than during the trial in March, was convicted in connection with a federal investigation into the then-lawman’s dealings with less-than upstanding citizens, including a Pharr man who ran illegal casino rooms.

It was not just his connection with purported nefarious characters, but Hernandez’s own alleged wrongful acts, specifically on two occasions in July 2017.

Government prosecutors alleged that Hernandez, under the belief that he was dealing with an associate of the Gulf Cartel, a notorious drug trafficking organization, agreed to use his authority and resources as a police officer to help facilitate the movement of what he believed was cocaine through Hidalgo County and to its rightful destination, in exchange for cash.

At the time of the alleged acts, Hernandez was a lieutenant with the Progreso Police Department, after previously serving as the police chief for the La Joya Police Department between 2014 and January 2015.

Hernandez understood he would be paid $5,000 for each instance of helping aid the associates get the load car through the city he was sworn to patrol.

In custody since the verdict in March, Hernandez was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending the sentencing hearing, scheduled for Thursday morning.

He faces up to 10 years in prison related to his guilty convictions on drug conspiracy charges.