Jerry Garza and Ann Hutyra spoke to local attorney David Almaraz on 'Beyond the Headlines' (KGNS) yesterday. Mr. Almaraz is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. He added some context to the FBI raids that occurred last week:
Initially, the federal agencies, in this case the FBI, get information that something, possibly illegal, is going on. So they send some agents to start working on it. In this case, probably, if you go back six months and maybe even a year, it's very possible that the agents talked to somebody, maybe a whistle blower. And many times, in cases like this, they will actually bring in somebody and interview them. They'll take them to the Shiloh building, and say, 'look, we have information that we think shows that you've been doing something illegal. You want to tell us about it?' And at that point they become what they call cooperating individuals. They'll start telling the FBI what they know, what they suspect.
This doesn't happen just overnight.
By the time they got to this search warrant, they had to have an affidavit signed by, probably, an FBI agent. I've seen these affidavits; they could be five, ten, fifteen pages long. In that affidavit, the federal agent tries to tell the federal judge, the magistrate who's going to sign the search warrant, a little bit about him, or her, what their experience is with this type of alleged public corruption case. And at some point, they have to prove to a judge - a judge is not going to sign a search warrant on city hall or the county judge or the county courthouse based on hearsay. They have to be pretty sure what they're looking for. And so, that is how I believe this search warrant was issued.
They have to have probable cause in front of you. And the judge will say, I need to have very good probable cause before I sign this. Why? Because it's very unusual for agents to actually raid a city hall anywhere, or a county courthouse anywhere, and actually shut down business for that day.
I have not seen or heard of anything like this before, at least here in Texas. It's possible it has happened, but for them to hit two entities, a city and a county place of business, the heart of the county and the heart of the city, it's not common at all.
Mr. Almaraz found it odd that the names of local elected officials were released to the media. Right now they are just "target subjects." It's not until an actual indictment is handed down, or an arrest is made, that names are revealed to the public. It may be that the charges filed by the FBI, and list of public officials, was leaked.
The next step, according to Almaraz, is for the FBI to present their findings to the Department of Justice. But first they have to sift through the evidence they've collected. This process may take months. The FBI has to build their case, and then decide which officials to focus their attention on. It may be that only several of those on the FBI's case will actually face an indictment.
It could be years before we see any arrests.
(Photo courtesy of El Manana)
Beyond the Headlines contributor Sergio Mora pointed to the powerful image of the FBI truck parked outside city hall on Wednesday. Mayor Pete Saenz called the situation embarrassing. The downtown facility, among other places, was locked down that day. Agents were seen going back and forth, taking what they needed.
The same scene was playing out at Dannenbaum Engineering offices in Laredo and throughout Texas.
Local leaders addressed the matter on Wednesday afternoon. List of names or not, Laredoans would've suspected the worst. What we do now is just sit and wait until the investigation is carried out. We have a better sense of what transpired last week, but it'll be a long while before the truth comes out.