San Benito mayor’s case to be dismissed after probation program, including Open Meetings Act training

By Fernando Del Valle
Valley Morning Star
Originally published Dec. 18, 2013

SAN BENITO — A special prosecutor said Wednesday that he will dismiss a misdemeanor charge against San Benito Mayor Joe Hernandez upon his completion of a Cameron County District Attorney’s Office probation program.

State District Judge Rolando Olvera heard the status of Hernandez’s case Wednesday in 445th District Court in Brownsville.

Special Prosecutor Ruben Peña said he will dismiss Hernandez’s charge of abuse of official capacity because the mayor completed the DA’s pre-trial diversion program.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Hernandez said after the hearing. “It’s like starting fairly new. I’ll continue moving forward and doing the things people elected me for.”

Hernandez blamed political enemies for filing a complaint that led to the charge.

“I don’t think it had any merit,” Hernandez said. “It’s retaliation. This is a malicious attempt by a group of people to destroy my integrity.”

Hernandez entered into an agreement with prosecutors in December 2012, promising to stay out of trouble during a one-year probationary period. In exchange, Peña agreed to dismiss the misdemeanor charge that stemmed from an October 2012 two-count indictment.

Peña had dismissed a felony charge of tampering with evidence upon Hernandez’s entrance into the DA’s program, arguing the charge would be difficult to prosecute.

“He was treated just like all other defendants in pre-trial diversion,” Peña said in an interview.

The two-count indictment stemmed from a complaint filed by San Benito resident Alfonso Benavides in January 2012.

Benavides’ complaint accused Hernandez of proposing a revision to a city ordinance to allow mobile vendors to do business in town while he profited from a snow cone stand that operated on his lot next to his barbershop.

The indictment, which accused Hernandez of discussing his proposal in a July 2011 city meeting after he signed a conflict of interest affidavit, also accused him of tampering with evidence by removing the raspa stand from his property.

As part of the DA’s pre-trial diversion program, Hernandez paid a $720 Cameron County Adult Probation supervisory fee, paid a $1,000 fee to charities that included the Salvation Army and attended 12 hours of continuing education in municipal law, with six hours that focused on the Texas Open Meetings Act, Hernandez and his attorney Raynaldo Rodriguez said.