Above: typical school before Gonzalez. Below: attorney Hardberger. attorney, Phil Hardberger of San Antonio, called on Atty. Gen. John Hill. Hardberger was referred by Hill to Carruth, who outlined what the state would attempt to prove. Hardberger found out that all three indictments were for the same alleged crime that Gonzalez paid Cantu $1,000 a month to sit idle. The indictments were tied to three separate monthly payments Gonzalez had authorized for Cantu. “Hell, under that logic they could have indicted him 12 times,” said Hardberger. Still nothing happened. At Gonzalez’s request, Hardberger filed motions for a speedy trial in October, November, December and February . Meanwhile, Gonzalez moved from Harlingen to Crystal City to prepare his defense. He spent three months gathering evidence that was easily available to the state. A piece of art Gonzalez unearthed minutes of board meetings that Cantu \(who supervised and reported to. He found reports he himself had written with Cantu’s help. He found payment vouchers attached to invoices Cantu had signed. He found records of long-distance phone calls Cantu had made from his desk. He found a PBX operator who said she had not only placed calls for Cantu, but had also typed letters for him. It was a tedious process, reconstructing the activities of one of 400 employees from two years before. The effort culminated in a piece of art Gonzalez will never be able to hang, but will keep forever: a three-foot wide, thirty-foot long chart documenting Cantu’s dayby-day activities for an entire year. Its coded colors recorded all invoices signed, reports written, phone calls made, and board meetings attended by Cantu. Hardberger failed in his attempt to enter the extraordinary document as a trial exhibit, but not before its unraveling had alerted both the jury and the trial judge to serious weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. The trial was moved from Crystal City at the state’s request. At first prosecutors wanted Uvalde, home of Gov. Dolph Briscoe, whose affection for Zavala County \(“Little Cuba,” Briscoe settled on Brownsville as a compromise venue. In his opening argument, Carruth assured the all-Mexican-American jury that Cantu had performed absolutely no work while on the payroll of the Crystal City school district. From there, things steadily deteriorated for the prosecution. 4 The Texas Observer One of Gonzalez’s chief accusers, Crystal City police chief and school board member Ramon Garza, claimed he did not even know that Cantu was on the payroll until eight months after Gonzalez hired him in August of 1975. But school board minutes presented as evidence showed that Cantu had been introduced to the board three days before his em ployment began and that both he and Garza were present at subsequent board meetings. At one of them, Garza made a resolution related to a report Cantu had just made. Another state’s witness who swore Cantu had done no work was shown vouchers he had okayed based on invoices signed by Cantu. By now, Carruth knew he was going to have a hard time convincing the jury that Cantu was a drone, especially after the defense introduced his phone records. The prosecution muddied the waters a bit with talk of companies owned by Cantu and money loaned to him by Gonzalez, insinuating that Gonzalez and Cantu were united in a kickback scheme. Taking another tack in his closing argument, Carruth argued that maybe Cantu did do some work, but if the jury found that he had not done enough to justify his salary, they could find Gonzalez guilty of theft for paying Cantu the amount he did. “Can you imagine?” said Hardberger later. “The state can come in and throw you in jail because it felt one of your people didn’t work hard enough? That’s scary.” Hardberger went on to allow as how the attorney general, the governor and some others in authority might sleep uneasily if such a legal standard were scrupulously enforced in Austin. Gonzalez wept in frustration while recalling Carruth’s final argument. After all the evidence, said Gonzalez, Carruth “continued to call me a thief and say that I stole money from the children of Crystal City. It even hurts me now that these bastards can do this to a man.” The trial lasted a week. The jury took two hours to reach its decision. The first two votes found two for conviction. The third was unanimous for acquittal. “The feeling was that the state simply didn’t make its case,” said one juror. “It was obvious to me that Cantu had worked.” Another juror, Mary Camacho of San Benito, said, “The district attorney’s witnesses never said Noe was not a hardworking and honest map. I noticed that when they walked out of the courtroom they would walk over and shake hands with him, like they felt ashamed or sorry for him or something.” The state could have easily uncovered the information that Gonzalez found to prove his innocence. But at no time before the trial was Gonzalez asked to give his side of the story.