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Convicting the Victim By Paula Manley Austin 0 N FEBRUARY 19, 1983, Paul Hernandez was clubbed by police officers after a Ku Klux Klan march in Austin, where he was among nearly 3,000 anti-Klan demonstrators. Hernandez, a community organizer known for his criticism of police brutality, received a severe concus sion, fractured rib and wrist, and a gash in his head which required eight stitches. Video footage of the beating made national network news. Three weeks later, he and two friends were charged with resisting arrest. Almost one year later, Hernandez was brought to trial and found guilty as charged by an all-white jury. After the verdict was announced, Co .unty Attorney Margaret Moore said in a television interview that she was “very satisfied with the verdict” and that “people must be held accountable for what they do.” What she did not discuss were the circumstances surrounding Hernandez’s trial and conviction: The two original charges filed against Hernandez on February 19 were class C misdemeanors, each Paula Manley lives in Austin. the defense mostly had things its way. Garcia’s family and friends, many of whom arrived at the scene shortly after Susan had flagged down a passing car and then pedaled home for help, complain that Susan’s account was all but dismissed by White and sheriff’s deputies at the scene. White took jurisdiction in the case because it was outside the Kyle city limits. He did not separate the boys for questioning, measure skid marks at the time, or hold the boys. He conducted a follow-up investigation in Judge Holt’s office. Says Greg Toomey, a Kyle officer and later Acting Chief, who was among the first to arrive on the scene, “They had access to the Kyle police department, Hays Sheriff’s department or their own office. Any one of those environments would have been a more impartial atmosphere. I don’t know how objective standards can be maintained on the proverbial home turf of the elected JP who is blood relation [to the accused].” Toomey also said he saw numerous skid marks at the scene, though White told jurors he found none. Toomey said his first impression at the scene was that aggravated assault had taken place and that he would have treated the case as such had it been in his jurisdiction. Toomey, however, was never called to testify at Holt’s trial. Nor was Toomey’s partner that day, Chief James Burke. D. A. Rugeley explained that one was off in Wyoming and the other was “gone,” and, he told the San Marcos Daily Record, he did not know how to get in touch with either of them. In fact, both are, and were at the time of the trial, enrolled in a Houston law school. Their addresses and telephone numbers are on file with the Kyle police department and the Onion Creek Free Press had no trouble tracking them down. In the end, it took the all-white jury eight hours over two days of deliberations to declare Holt innocent of the charges. Neither youth was ever charged with leaving the scene of an accident. According to jurors, the first vote was 7-5 for acquittal, then 10-2 and 11-1 before a verdict was reached. Juror Billie Robinson, who voted for acquittal on every ballot, said jurors “felt like we didn’t have all the facts.” Several other jurors raised similar complaints after the trial. “We all felt let down,” said juror Marion Gregory. Today Garcia’s cause has just begun to fade from public attention, but for him the battle is only beginning. He went back to work in September but suffered a seizure and passed out on the job. Now he is back at work, but on restricted duty and heavy medication, which clouds his future, even though he has a sympathetic boss in Commissioner Campos, who describes Garcia as a model employee before his injury. Despite county health insurance and a small settlement from Dees’ insurance company, Garcia is heavily in debt with medical bills. His wife Eva, who was the family money manager particularly since the injury never learned to cope with the stress generated by the whole incident, and now the two have separated. With Eva’s pictures and some of the furniture gone from the five-room, unpainted wood-frame house, almost the only decorations are Catholic saints and photographs of the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Daisy, gone with her mother. During the cold spell over the holidays, water from broken pipes peeled up part of his floor. He has no money to fix the pipes, but his brother and a. neighbor are helping out. “I ustd to be able to fix ,anything,” he says. “I can’t fix anything anymore; I get confused.” He believes his eyesight is continuing to worsen and he still has back and leg pain. His medical bills are piled high in a shoe box he keeps in his home’s tiny living room. He still can’t remember what happened last April 7. “I wish I could remember; I wish I could understand,” he says. Garcia says he is not bitter toward anyone, and he is painfully appreciative of, friends and strangers who have helped, him in the past year. Still, in an interview shortly after New Year’s, he wondered aloud, though almost apologetically, if Rugeley “really did his best for me.” He says he rues his ignorance of the judicial system. Alan Holt still declines to talk about the affair. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he says politely. “I’d just appreciate it if it were all dropped.” There, at last,, he may have found common ground with Garcia, in a way. “I try to go on, I have to,” Garcia says. “If I started going down I’d go all the way I guess. . . . About what happened, I try to forget. That’s all I do. But I can’t.” /N JANUARY, “in order to clear the air,” County Commissioner Dan Campos filed a request for an official investigation with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, asking them to look at the propriety of Justice of the Peace James Holt Sr.’s involvement in the case. The commission generally works in secret and will neither confirm nor deny that an investigation is underway. According to reliable sources, though, the Commission has received another complaint about Holt, accusing him of racial discrimination. Through various cases over the course of the year, District Attorney Bill Rugeley has managed to anger a large number of Anglos as well as Mexican Americans. Early in 1983, Rugeley hired Linda Rodriguez, the county’s first woman and first Mexican American assistant district attorney. That blunted criticism of Rugeley’s purported insensitivity to rape cases but did little to help when Rugeley failed to get a conviction on a county 14 FEBRUARY 24, 1984