access to privileges within the facility. By early April, the inspector general of the agency had determined to his satisfaction that each of the allegations against the men was true. Hernandez was informed that he was about to be terminated, and he resigned. \(Brookins had resigned almost immediately after Brookins and Hernandez were facing possible prison time, and the Youth Commission was confronted with a major scandal at the worst possible moment. Abuse allegations at the Evins facility in Edinburg had been in the papers for months. With the media circling around that story, the agency’s directors in Austin were bracing for a second storm when the news about Pyote broke. Instead, the case disappeared. The two suspects were never arrested, and details of the investigation were never reported in the papers. Hernandez and Brookins quietly left town. The criminal cases against Brookins and Hernandez were not stalled by a lack of evidence, according to Randy Reynolds, the district attorney for Ward County boring Loving and Reeves counties. \(Ranger Burzynski would not comment on why the two suspects have never been arrested, citing the ongoing invesReynolds also runs a law practice on the side. In an interview in early February at his law office in Pecos, Reynolds said there was nothing wrong with the cases and that the investigation was officially still open. The indictments were initially delayed, he said, by an abortive attempt to prosecute the case federally through the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Antonio. After examining the case, federal prosecutors decided to pass, believing tougher charges were available in state court. Reynolds conceded that this decision was made some time ago; in fact, it has been at least 16 months since the cases landed back on his desk. “I don’t like the fact that it’s taken this long,” he said. “Generally in our jurisdiction, we don’t believe in waiting. We believe in going forward.” According to Isela Gutierrez, an advocate for juvenile justice reform at the Legislature, it is not uncommon for cases like these to languish in prosecutors’ filing cabinets. Such delays are a function of the peculiar demographics of TYC, which takes kids from across the state, many from urban areas, and puts them in rural facilities like Pyote, she said. “The local prosecutors don’t consider these kids to be their constituents;’ she said. “The victims’ families often live very far away, and there are no political repercussions for failing to do their jobs.” Reynolds, who said he was not aware that one of the suspects was working with students again, denied that the cases had been harmed by the delay. “We’ve always felt like we’ll make these two cases sooner or later;’ he said. He suggested he was waiting to see how far up the TYC chain of command the investigation would lead before bringing in Hernandez and Brookins. But investigators have not worked on the case for at least a year, according to sources knowledgeable about the investigation. “These kids have done bad things; these kids have had bad things done to them;’ said Marc Slattery’s mother Dottie, who also volunteered at Pyote, “but these kids deserve the best that the state of Texas can do for them.” Neither Dottie nor her husband Bill, another volunteer, have been back to the West Texas State School in the two years since their son first blew the whistle on Brookins. They are not welcome, Dottie said, because they know too much. Sen. Hinojosa, who questioned Harris at the Senate Finance hearing in early February, said he has grave concerns about how TYC handled the incident. “This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and this issue is not going away,” he said. Hinojosa, along with Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden, a Republican, and Democratic senators Royce West and John Whitmire, have vowed to make TYC reform a priority this session. The conclusions of the agency’s internal review are scathing. “In spite of the presence of indicators of risk of misconduct, a history of misconduct, widespread suspicion of misconduct, and reports of unusual behavior,” it reads in part, “Mr. Brookins was placed in positions of great responsibility and authority at West Texas State School.” The investigator interviewed witnesses who reported that even as far back as Brookins’ tenure at San Saba, where he began his TYC career, he was known for taking kids from the dorms at odd hours, prompting rumors and suspicion. Harrison, the Pyote superintendent, comes in for the most blame in the report. Three of the report’s nine official 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 23, 2007
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.