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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, May 4, 2000

Increase sought in federal judges for West Texas

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, May 4, 2000 - Lawmakers in South and West Texas are pushing to have more judges assigned to the region to keep with a boom in arrests for drug violations, illegal aliens and smuggling.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who represents an area of West Texas between San Antonio and Midland, introduced legislation Wednesday to add two federal judges for the Western District of Texas that serves much of the area.

"Unprecedented border enforcement has swamped the Western District," said Smith, R-San Antonio and a member of the House Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration. "We need more judges to keep up with the rapidly rising number of cases."

A sharp increase in Border Patrol presence throughout the region has led to the explosion of arrests, according to The Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Felony cases have tripled since 1995, according to Smith's office, and in the past year alone, they have gone up 20 percent.

Criminal court cases in Pecos federal court are on their way to far surpassing 1999's numbers. As of today, a total of 187 cases involving 242 defendants had been filed since Jan. 1, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Stewart Platt was in town this morning to hear 40 new cases. Another 19 civil cases have been filed in Pecos federal court this year.

For all of 1999, a total of 387 cases involving 523 defendants were filed in Pecos. That's a sharp contrast to 1994, when the appointment of two new judges for the Western District had just been made, and before the construction of the Lucius D. Bunton III Federal Courthouse. Fewer than 100 cases were filed in Pecos that year, with no cases at all filed in April, 1994.

Total federal cases, both criminal and civil, have doubled since 1990 - the last year Congress authorized new judges for the Western District of Texas, that includes San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Waco, Del Rio and Midland.

And according to the 1999 Federal Court Management Statistics report released Tuesday, the state's Western District judges handled about five times the national average case load for criminal cases, the Reporter-Telegram said.

The argument for more support finds a welcome ear in U.S. District Judge W. Royal Furgeson of Midland.

Furgeson said Smith has been a leader in immigration and border issues "and he understands how those cases have affected the dockets. The dockets are just exploding."

Furgeson was one of the two judges appointed to the Western District in 1993 and 1994. He took the place of Bunton, who retired to senior judge status in 1994, but still handles cases in both Midland and Pecos due to the heavy criminal docket in the region.

The Western District includes 500 miles of border and runs from Waco to El Paso: a territory of 92,000 square miles. It also includes the cities of El Paso, Midland-Odessa, Del Rio, San Antonio, Austin and Waco.

The chief judge of the U.S. District Court that serves much of South and West Texas, James R. Nowlin, supports a congressional authorization for more judges. And backers of the bill say they've found allies on the Judicial Conference, a group of senior federal judges who oversees administration in the federal court system.

Smith said he doesn't know how long it will take to get the measure passed and new judges appointed, although officials estimate the new confirmations could take up to two years.

Largest blimp stops in town on flight east

Special Correspondent
PECOS, May 4, 2000 - "The biggest certified airship in the world," made a brief stop at the Pecos Municipal Airport yesterday. On its way to New England, crewman Taylor Sierstorpff said that along with it, a crew of about "22 to 24 people" are making the nation wide trek that started, last month in California.

Sierstorpff was watching over the airship as it was anchored to an Airship Operations truck. The company responsible for blimps manufacturer is based out of Kissimmee, Florida.

The airship "was actually built by hand in Elizabeth North Carolina," Sierstorpff explained. The Colleges.Com logo was painted by hand in San Diego by renowned artist Burt Dodge, he added.

The owner of the Colleges.Com owns several websites, but was promoting this particular Internet feature across the country, Sierstorpff explained. "We're visiting colleges all over the country," he said, adding that the website advertised is accessible not only to college students, but to "almost anybody," across the country. It also allows high school students to visit, "virtual campuses, which is a neat feature this time of year."

"Students can check out what's going on at their campus…for example, this weekend," he said.

The Airship Operations employee explained that the website owner contracted AO for the promotional tour, which is heading east to Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and New York before going to Boston for Harvard University's commencement exercises in early June.

The two-year-old airship is, "200 feet long by 67 feet high and 63 feet wide and is carrying six passengers and two pilots," said Sierstorpff. It has 8,200 lights for nighttime viewing, he added.

He said that during his watch he is responsible for taking volume readings, "every hour on the hour."

"The thing is really sensitive to weather," he explained as he watched the unit sway north and southward.

Couple seek Mystical success for new business

Staff Writer
PECOS, May 4, 2000 - Soothing scents waft through the air at the new, unique gift shop that will be opening its doors to the public on Friday.

Laura and Arthur Nicklesen will be welcoming customers to their new shop, Mystical Spirit, located at 1221 S. Eddy at their grand opening scheduled for Friday.

The shop will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

"We're just really excited about being here," said Laura Nicklesen, who moved here from New Jersey.

Nicklesen stated that they had moved to Pecos about six weeks ago, because her mother is living here and they wanted to get away from the "rat race."

"We wanted to move somewhere calmer, a little bit slower," said Arthur Nicklesen.

The couple had a shop similar to the one here in New Jersey. " I wanted to open a unique shop and offer customers something a little bit different," said Laura.

The shop will feature such items as silver jewelry, scented and unscented candles, oils, and incense and celestial decorations. Also on their shelves are the ever-popular Pokemon trading cards.

"We'll be offering a little bag of incense or a Pokemon book cover to any purchases over $10 on Friday," said Laura. "We also have the new Team Rocket Trading Cards," she said.

The Nicklesen's who are still moving in, will be receiving more items as they get settled in their new location.

"We're still really new here, but we want to get to know the people and as they come in they can tell give me their requests for different items," said Laura.

The store will also be "kid friendly," and little ones are also invited to come in and browse.

"I just saw a need for gifts and decorations and decided to open a shop like that here," said Laura. "The other store in New Jersey was also called Mystical Spirit."

Gift items will also include charm bracelets, with different charms that can be added. "We have all kinds of eagles, all the instruments, and different items that can be added to the bracelet," said Nicklesen.

The store will also feature items from the Fat Mouse and Fox Store located near Mentone. "She has a lot of Native American items and we'll be having some of those items here later on," Nickelsen said.

When they're not busy fixing up their store, the couple enjoys attending their son's little league games and meeting new people. "I also speak Spanish fluently, so if anyone comes in that doesn't speak English I can communicate with them," Laura said.

The Nicklesen's have two sons, Arthur, age 8, and Thomas, two years old.

Inmate alleges jail assault by guards

Staff Writers
PECOS, May 4, 2000 - Allegations of abuse at the Reeves County Jail will be looked into, according to Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, after an inmate brought to the jail following a family incident on Saturday claimed he was assaulted by a jailer.

Raymond Vega, Jr., said he was seeking to contact the Texas Rangers and the Midland office of the FBI on Wednesday, after being diagnosed at Reeves County Hospital with injuries to his face, kidney and liver. Vega said were caused by a beating he received at Reeves County Jail, while an incident report filed by jail officials said Vega's injuries occurred when he was struggling with the jailers while refusing to leave the detoxification cell.

Vega admitted Wednesday he had been intoxicated at the time of his arrest, and said the incident occurred, "all because I didn't want to let them book me."

"I tried to file charges (against the deputies), but they said I had fallen down," said Vega, while showing his deep red bruise near his left hip and a swollen left cheekbone. "I would have had to have fallen off a building to get this."

According to a report by Pecos police, Vega was taken to Reeves County Jail on Saturday, April 29, at 7:40 p.m. by officer Ernest Lazcano, for family violence.

The incident report indicates that Vega was rude and uncooperative with officers Jesse Solis and Gabriel Gonzales at the time.

After the inmate had changed into jail clothes he called through the intercom advising he wanted his mattress and blanket, "Now."

The officers went to the detox tank to speak to the inmate. Vega then insisted that the officers give him his mattress and all his belongings. Vega was advised that he will get his blanket in a moment, but would not get his mattress until he was booked in and upstairs. At this time Vega became very furious and verbally abusive.

According to the incident report, Vega was advised to step back so that they could get another inmate out the detox tank, since the second inmate was not causing problems. Vega refused. He stepped toward one of the officers and raised his hand to what appeared to be a striking pose. One of the officers reached for the Vega's chest and pushed him against the wall and held him there. As he was held there, Vega appeared to reach for the arms of the officer to break the hold.

While the first officer scuffled with the inmate, the other officer got the other inmate out of the tank and then assisted with the taking Vega down. When Vega was taken down, he hit his left eye on the floor and caused a laceration.

He was then transported to the Reeves County hospital emergency room, at 8:06 p.m. He was treated and released.

Vega said he remembered being assaulted by one of the guards, Gonzales, while the others waited outside.

"They left me there for 90 minutes until they saw I was really bleeding," he said. "I was taken to the hospital and stitched up, but I was still urinating blood and they didn't do anything about it."

Additional information on the incident report indicates that Vega threatened the lives of one of the officers and his family.

"The officers followed procedure," said Gomez. "We're not going to be abusing anyone in our jail," he said.

"I don't like people being abused," said Gomez.

However, Gomez stated that they are going to investigate the incident. "And if he wants someone from the outside to investigate it, we'll bring someone in," he said.

"If it makes him feel better, I'll call someone to come in and make a full investigation," said Gomez.

Vega said he had tried to talk to Gomez earlier this week, but the sheriff was out of town.

"They (the jail staff) didn't want to give me any information. They said I was drunk," Vega alleged. "I went to the police department to press charges, and they wouldn't let me file charges."

Gomez stated that officers and staff are asked to be courteous at all times. "We treat our people right," he said.

Vega said he had been referred by doctors in Pecos to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, but was turned away initially because he didn't have his Medicaid card. "Right now (Wednesday) I just went to the doctor and he's sending me back up there."

Health Insurance info to be offered at CCRC Friday

PECOS, May 4, 2000 - Jan Mann, a representative for the Children's Health Insurance Program  will be at the Community Council of Reeves County office, 700 W. Daggett St., at 10:30 a.m., Friday.

Mann will be providing information regarding CHIP.

The TexCare Partnership is a new children's health insurance campaign developed especially for Texas families. Its purpose is to provide health insurance for children at a price that fits the budgets of Texas families.

Steer roping event set for weekend at Rodeo Arena

PECOS, May 4, 2000 - The West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee will be hosting a Steer Roping this weekend at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena. The roping sanctioned by the American Steer Roping Championships will be held Saturday, May 6 at 1 p.m. and Sunday, May 7 at 10 a.m.

The committee would like to invite the community out to watch this event. Admission is free and concessions will be available on the grounds.


PECOS, May 4, 2000 - High Wednesday 99. Low this morning 60. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low 55-60. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High around 95. Southwest wind 10-20 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Low 55-60. Saturday and Sunday: Dry. Low 55-60. Highs in the 90s.

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