Appellate Court Sides With County Attorney Who Said He Lost His Job for Challenging Judge’s Ruling
“Unfortunately, I believe I lost my job because of it, but this is a situation of doing the right thing,” said Jaime “A.J.” Iracheta, former Maverick County attorney.
Former Maverick County Attorney Jaime “A.J.” Iracheta lost his job six weeks after filing an appeal that claimed the area’s county judge erroneously nullified a 2005 conviction without having jurisdiction, holding a hearing, considering evidence or providing sufficient notice for the state to respond.
“Unfortunately, I believe I lost my job because of it, but this is a situation of doing the right thing,” said Iracheta, who was county attorney from January 2018 until March.
Iracheta, now an Eagle Pass solo practitioner, said he’s feeling vindicated after San Antonio’s Fourth Court of Appeals reversed the county judge’s ruling, which had cleared a misdemeanor marijuana conviction and allowed a permanent resident from Mexico, who was in federal immigration custody, to stay in the United States.
The defendant, Jose Haime De Hoyos, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge in 2005. Judge Amado Abascal III of the 365th District sentenced him to one year in county jail, suspending the sentence for De Hoyos to serve two years of probation, said the Fourth Court’s Aug. 14 opinion in Ex Parte Jose Jaime De Hoyos.
In November 2018, De Hoyos sought habeas corpus relief to withdraw his guilty plea in Maverick County’s constitutional county court. When he filed the application, De Hoyos was in the Department of Homeland Security’s custody and facing removal because of his conviction.
“The application requests relief based on De Hoyos’s attorney erroneously advising him the misdemeanor conviction would not cause him to be deported from the United States even though he was a Mexican national residing in the United States as a lawful permanent resident,” the opinion said.
The Fourth Court’s opinion said that County Judge David Saucedo granted De Hoyos habeas relief and declared that his guilty plea was null and void Nov. 27, 2018.
In the appeal, Iracheta argued that because the district court imposed De Hoyos’ sentence, Texas law required him to seek habeas relief there, and the county court lacked jurisdiction. Even if it had jurisdiction, the court had no factual basis to grant relief: It didn’t hold a hearing, nor consider affidavits, depositions or interrogatories. Also, the county attorney’s office, which opposed the relief, received notice of the proceedings too late to file a response.
In contrast, De Hoyos’ March 20 brief said both county and district courts can consider habeas applications for misdemeanors.
“The state is plainly wrong that there was no factual basis for granting relief,” De Hoyos’ brief added.
The Fourth Court disagreed, finding De Hoyos should have filed his application in the district court. The Fourth Court reversed the county court’s order and dismissed De Hoyos’ habeas application, without prejudice, so he can refile in district court.
“I don’t condone having a constitutional county judge conducting a judicial review of a case, ex parte, and then basically overruling the district judge’s judgment, and declaring a guy innocent from a case from 15 years ago. That just couldn’t stand,” Iracheta said.
Maverick County Commissioners appointed Iracheta to fill a vacancy in 2018, and Iracheta recalled that either by Saucedo’s mistake of not calling on a special election in November 2018, or by Iracheta’s mistake of not filing to run for the office, the position became vacant again in 2019. Commissioners in March chose Eagle Pass attorney Gloria Hernandez to fill the post.
Hernandez actually moved to dismiss the appeal in April, but the Fourth Court denied it, because 293rd Judicial District District Attorney Roberto Serna opposed the dismissal.
Hernandez and Serna each didn’t return a call seeking comment. Neither did De Hoyos’ lawyer, Eagle Pass solo practitioner Gregory Torres.