Former deputy accused of assaulting 17 year old will not face trial

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

A former Jim Wells County Sheriff's Deputy who was indicted for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old man has been placed in a pre-trial diversion program, according to information released during a court hearing last week.

Former deputy Carlo Tanguma was indicted Aug. 8, 2006 for aggravated assault by a public servant in connection with a May 9 incident in which he allegedly assaulted Elias Flores Jr.

Tanguma was fired by the sheriff's department shortly after the indictment.

In a May 17 docket control conference, to determine the status of the case and whether it was ready for trial, officials with the district attorney's office announced Tanguma had been placed in a pre-trial diversion program, so no trial date would be necessary.

On Friday, assistant director of probation Julian Serna said Tanguma has been in the program since February, and is expected to remain in the program for a year.

The pre-trial diversion program, or intervention program, includes regular meetings with the parole department, counseling and other requirements, Serna said.

"It's similar to probation. There are conditions, they have to pay restitution, and there are special conditions they have to follow," he said.

If the individual placed in the program completes all of the necessary requirements, Serna said, the charges against them are usually dropped.

Linda Flores, Elias Flores' mother, was unaware that Tanguma had been placed in the program when asked for comment Friday. Upon learning Tanguma may not be prosecuted for the alleged assault, Flores questioned the motives of District Attorney Joe Frank Garza.

"If it was the other way around, my son would already be in jail," Flores said. "They're just putting it under the carpet. He needs help, but is that it? A slap on the wrist and that's it? Where is the justice in this?"

Garza said Friday Tanguma was placed in the program at the recommendation of the probation department.

"The probation department reviews cases and they'll tell us which are good for pretrial diversion," Garza said. "If we agree, then they take it."

Garza also denied any special measures were being taken because Tanguma had worked for the sheriff's department, and said the program was one option his office considers for many cases.

"This is part of the process of the justice system in dealing with cases," Garza said. "Not all cases go to trial, not all cases necessarily have to be pleaded out.

"There are other means of handling cases, not just going to trial."