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.411.11111111110114101110Corpus, continued from page 19 Capelo and Rodriguez claim the $100,000 check was a harmless accounting error. Their critics, includ ing Tony Canales, believe it was a kickback…. It’s hard to know what to make of all that, except as Corpus lawyer Doug Tinker said, “It’s like a basket of fish. Something stinks:’ scheduled debates. One Nelda Martinez, a small-business in check for and why haven’t you provided which has never been overly friendly to an explanation?” For weeks, Capelo had Rodriguez, Shamsie, and Vela, is hoping tried to address the allegations without to aid in Capelo’s ouster. actually offering an explanation. He In mid-September, 17 of the police kept repeating that he was innocent officers Rodriguez had represented in and would tell the whole truth in court, the CITGO case filed a lawsuit against not before. In the debate, Capelo mainRodriguez and Capelo in federal court tained that the $100,000 check was a under the Racketeer Influence and discovered it. “The bottom line on this Their lawyer is Tony Canales. The suit is I took a stand on health care for your claims that Capelo and Rodriguez confamilies,” Capelo said, referring to HB spired to defraud the police officers of 4 and Prop. 12. “One week after I did their rightful settlement money. Each that, this legal nightmare began. It’s a officer received at least several thoupolitical attack. It’s as simple as that.” sand dollars, but according to their Herrero went on the offensive. “How suit, they should have received more can a $100,000 check be a mistake after from CITGO. In addition to their suit you endorse it?” Capelo never answered under the RICO act, Canales and the Herrero’s question. So after the debate, police officers filed a civil suit against I intercepted Capelo and asked it again. Rodriguez and Capelo in state court, “I didn’t write the check” he said. “It was seeking compensatory damages. Since Rene Rodriguez’s mistake. Ask Rene.” then, the two sides have been engaging \(A few weeks later, I did ask Rodriguez in legal jujitsu, filing motions, counabout it. He said he couldn’t discuss ter-motions, requests for stays, and it, which pained him because, “I’m deposing seemingly every political not afraid to talk about anything. But player in town. The case has already there’s an explanation for this and it’s spawned thousands of documents, Ironically, Rodriguez himself initiated county courthouse. And the case hasn’t the whirlwind of trouble that now sureven gone to trial yet. That’s mostly rounds him and Capelo with a colossal because no judge seems willing to take slip of the tongue. This past April, a it. The original suit landed in Rose few days after HB 4 passed, Rodriguez Vela’s court. She recused herself and 10 was talking with Rudy Gonzales, then more judges did the same. Judge Sandra one of Capelo’s law partners, at the Watts was willing to hear the case. But Nueces County Courthouse. Rodriguez, Rodriguez and Capelo’s attorneys suc according to several accounts, said he cessfully argued she would be biased was slightly angered that his friend because she’s the mother of rich attorCapelo had co-sponsored HB 4 and ney and Capelo enemy Mikal Watts. At Prop. 12, even after Rodriguez had press time, the case was assigned to a given him $100,000 in September. Republican judge from Kerrville. No Gonzales figured if Capelo had made trial date has been set. challenger is that money, he owed his partners their Several other lawsuits, and counter gentle-mannered cut. A few weeks later, the firm fired suits have sprung up surrounding the owner who, insiders Capelo. Gonzales related the story to kickback allegation. And FBI officials Corpus speculate, has ties to the the CITGO attorneys, who filed an confirmed in July that they were conCanales family. The other is energetic affidavit in Rose Vela’s court detailing sidering an investigation, though no attorney Abel Herrero, who can safely the events. Word of the affidavit leaked charges have been announced. Corpus be called the trial lawyer candidate. to the Caller -Times. By July 4, Capelo’s insiders speculate that Canales ultiWhile a roomful of potential voters alleged kickback was front-page news. mately hopes Rodriguez and Capelo munched free tamales and cake, the The newspaper has since fanned the will be disbarred. But with the March candidates engaged in several minutes story, publishing nearly 70 articles 9 primary approaching, Capelo’s more of drab political discussion. The debate about the controversy between July and immediate concern is his reelection picked up when one of the panelists December. Many of Capelo’s supporters campaign. As Corpus braces for another asked Capelo, “With all due respect to feel the coverage has been overblown. divisive election, the infighting, it’s safe the Chairman, what was the $100,000 Several speculated that the Caller -Times, to assume, will continue. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/30/04