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Friday, March 3, 2000

Herrera trial set unless plea deal OKed

Staff Writer
PECOS, Mar. 3, 2000 - The trial of Pecos bail bondsman Jose T. "Joey" Herrera Jr. on charges of fabricating evidence and money laundering is scheduled to begin on Monday in Davidson County District Court in Nashville, Tenn. unless Herrera agrees to a plea deal, according to records filed with the Davidson County District Clerk's office.

Senior Assistant District Attorney John Zimmermann said two weeks ago a trial date of March 6 had been set for Herrera, who also owns Herrera Insurance in Pecos and is a former president of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board. He has spent the past 11½ months in the Metro Nashville Davidson County Jail in Nashville, Tenn.

A status check hearing was scheduled for today before Davidson County District Judge Cheryl Blackburn, with Herrera due back in court on Monday. However, according to the district court records, prosecutors have offered Herrera a deal, in which he would agree to plead guilty to separate counts of fabricating evidence and one count of conspiracy to fabricate evidence.

If he accepts the deal, a sentencing hearing already has been set for May 30 in Judge Blackburn's court, according to the district clerk's office.

Herrera's Monday court date coincides with that of another defendant, Gilbert Weibe, who was involved in the alleged scheme to produce phony Mexican death certificates for suspects who had been released on bond from the Davidson County District Court.

Also indicted in connection with the scheme were two former employees of Paul's Bonding Co. of Nashville, who allegedly worked with Herrera to produce the death certificates, in order to persuade local court officials to drop drug charges against three men whose releases they had obtained on.

Peggy Coleman, 53, former officer manager for Paul's Bonding, was granted a delay in her scheduled Jan. 24 trial because of lung cancer and heart problems that have developed since her arrest in December 1998, according to the Nashville Tennesseean.

Former Paul's Bonding Co. employee James Mitchell (Wolf) Ferrell, 40, also is set to stand trial with Coleman. According to records in the Davidson County District Clerk's office, a status hearing on Coleman and Ferrell has been scheduled for March 24.

Blackburn set bail on Herrera at $500,000 back on March 30, 1999, following a hearing on the charges, for which Herrera was arrested in Pecos and extradited to Nashville.

Tennessee bail bondsmen were unable to post the large bail, Zimmerman said following the March 30 hearing. He explained that Tennessee law requires that bondsmen post cash or actual property to secure bail. One local bondsman was prepared to post $250,000 or less, but not $500,000, he said.

Nashville Police Officer Jesse Burchwell, who interviewed Herrera after his March 15, 1999 arrest in Pecos, testified during the bail hearing that Herrera admitted sending three forged death certificates to Tennessee, which resulted in the indictment.

Burchwell also testified that officers found a pad of blank death certificates when they searched Herrera's house.

"The numbers on the blank certificates were in the same sequence as those he sent up here," Zimmermann said.

According to Zimmermann, the Tennessee courts are faced with the problem of three Hispanic drug dealers who fled to Mexico. One was free on $500,000 bail and the other two on $250,000 each, posted by Paul's Bonding of Nashville.

Herrera had arranged for bail in all three cases, telling a Paul's Bonding employee, "when they don't show up, I will send you a death certificate," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said that three of the four criminal court judges had the phony death certificates presented in their courts. Blackburn was the only one who did not, so she was assigned to hear the case.

If Herrera is convicted, he could be sentenced from 8-30 years on the money laundering count, 3-15 years on each of the three fabricating evidence counts and 2-12 years for conspiracy to fabricate evidence, Zimmerman said. No word was available today on what sentencing guidelines would be used if Herrera agrees to a plea bargain agreement.

The Herrera case has resulted in reform of bail bond regulations in Nashville. The Tennesseean said the tougher new rules were drawn up by Zimmermann and went into effect last November.

Crockett student claims dual science prizes

PECOS, Mar. 3, 2000 - A Crockett Middle School student picked up a couple of first place awards recently during the school's annual science fair, and will be hoping to repeat that trick later this month, during area competition in Odessa.

Ysidro Renteria, Jr., an eighth grader at Crockett, won first place in both chemistry and physics for his displays `Steam Boat Power' and `The Amazing Water Bubbles' according to science teacher Jim Workman. The projects involved the use of both heat and electricity to produce their desired effects.

"I think that's the first time ever someone has one both awards, at least here," said Workman.

The science fair was held last week, and Workman said a total of 72 projects were entered. "Every student participate in the project, that was something they were all required to do," he said. The judges were teachers and Pecos High School students sent over by Workman's father, Jerry, from his science classes.

Renteria, the son of Dia and Ysidro Renteria, Sr., will be part of a group of about two-dozen students who will compete at the Region 18 science fair, scheduled for March 23-24 at the University of Texas/Permian Basin.

Pineda gets national award for migrant worker efforts

Staff Writer
PECOS, Mar. 3, 2000 - A Pecos resident received a national award recently for her many years of service and dedication to her job and the community.

Dora T. Pineda, 60, who retired last July as outreach worker with the Texas Workforce Commission, received the annual Unsung Hero award from the U.S. Department of Labor in San Antonio on Monday for her work with migrant farm families in Pecos and Reeves counties.

She recently lost her eyesight, but not her dreams. An inoperable brain tumor is slowly stealing her vision _ since spring she's been legally blind _ but she states she'll keep fighting for the rights of migrant farm families in West Texas, just as she did while working with TWC for 30 years.

"I still have goals to meet," said Pineda. "I don't want to just forget them, I want to contribute."

She was presented with the Unsung Hero Award by Larry Martinez, a national officer with the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., during the 2000 M.A.F.O. National Farmworker Organization _ National Conference in San Antonio.

Francisco Cerda, a Monitor Advocate with the Texas Workforce Commissioner, nominated her for the award.

Pineda worked where her clients worked, in the heat and dust of the Texas farm community.

Like them, she spent her childhood summers chopping cotton in West Texas, where temperatures often rise to 110 degrees.

"We had no toilet facilities," she said. "We had no rights. At 15, I finally said, `no way.'"

She vowed to finish school and become a spokesperson for migrant families.

"I wanted to make them aware of their rights," Pineda said, who grew up in the town of Pecos. "I felt the more I could learn, the more I could serve my community."

Pineda has since helped thousands in Pecos and Reeves counties get medical care and other support services, and has reported employer abuses.

Pineda was a Workforce Development Specialist IV, for the Texas Workforce Commission of Pecos and July 30 was her last day at the office.

Pineda started working at the unemployment office on a part-time basis as the front clerk, a position she held for five years. From 1981-99 she did a lot of traveling and a lot of learning.

"I feel happy that I'll get to do other things, but I feel sad about leaving because I want to continue helping people," said Pineda.

"These last few years I have been working with all migrant workers," said Pineda. "This is especially during the summer, when they come to work at the onion sheds, cantaloupe fields and packing sheds."

Pineda helped the migrant workers, going as far as going to their work site. "Even though I had other primary duties, I would still go out and try to help them," she said. "I worked a lot with the Migrant Summer Farm Workers Program and did all I could to provide them with jobs and plenty of information."

Her sight already was fading last year when she uncovered numerous violations of federal law _ including gasoline leaking dangerously on a farm truck manifold and workers living in a pesticide-laden warehouse without water or electricity. She reported other abuses, as well, despite anonymous threats of violence against her.

Pineda soon will learn to use a cane the way she once used her eyes. When she can get around better, she says, she can start helping migrant workers again _ this time as a volunteer.

"They'll have to get used to my disability," said Pineda, "but I'm not going to be shy."

"I have a great love for these people, I have been in their shoes," said Pineda.

Her family consists of her husband, MacArthur and her children, Edward, Nancy Ann and Steven.

Commissioners looking to save bike plant jobs

PECOS, Mar. 3, 2000 - Reeves County Commissioners are planning a special meeting in an effort to save an local plant and over 20 jobs slated to be eliminated later this year.

Commissioners will meet at 10:30 a.m., Monday, on the third floor of the courthouse to discuss and take action on tax abatement resolution for Balmorhea's Brunswick/Roadmaster Bicycle Plant Operation.

Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 3 Herman Tarin requested that the item be placed on the agenda and that the county offer the Brunswick tax abatement in effort to keep the facility operating and jobs secured.

Officials with the Illinois-based Brunswick Corp. announced in January that they would be closing the bicycle plant in Balmorhea, along with its manufacturing operations in Ojinaga, Mexico. The company said at the time it was discontinuing all bicycle production in North American and would outsource its purchases of bicycles from China in the future.

The plant is the shipping point for bicycles made at the Ojinaga factory to dealers across the United States, and was a major supplier for Wal-Mart stores nationwide. It was built only four years ago, and capacity inside was doubled in 1998.

During the most recent Christmas holiday season, Brunswick employed 31 people, 27 of those from the Balmorhea area. Losses in Ojinaga from the plant closing would be far more severe, with 700 people due to be put out of work by this summer.

Lack of quorum cancels meeting of PHA board

PECOS, Mar. 3, 2000 - Pecos Housing Authority board members did not hold their regular monthly meeting Thursday due to a lack of a quorom.

The only members present were executive director Nellie Gomez, chairman Frank Perea, and commissioner Sandra Lira.

The board will try again to hold a called meeting on Tuesday at the PHA office, 600 Meadowbrook Dr.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night: Winning numbers drawn: 7-10-23-33-36. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $82,317. Winning ticket sold in: Whitesboro. Matching four of five: 246. Prize: $502.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 0-9-1 (zero, nine, one)


PECOS, Mar. 3, 2000 - High Thursday 74. Low this morning 48. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low around 40. Light and variable wind. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High in the lower 70s. Southeast wind 10-20 mph. Saturday night: Mostly cloudy. Low in the 40s. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High in the 70s.

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