Arrested South Texas officer remains in custody

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Associated Press

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge in South Texas refused to adjust the bond of a fired South Texas sheriff's commander who remained in custody Monday on drug trafficking charges.

A lawyer for former Hidalgo County sheriff's commander Jose "Joe" Padilla told the court Monday that Padilla could pay the required $5,000 cash deposit on his $100,000 bond, but asked that the balance be left unsecured. Padilla had not been able to find someone to co-sign and does not own any lien-free property.

"There's nothing else that this man can do," said Joe Cisneros, Padilla's attorney. Cisneros said he would co-sign himself if it weren't considered a conflict of interest. "I just can't believe this man will flee."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos said Padilla must find someone to put up the collateral if he wants to be released pending trial and that she is required to set conditions to compel him to appear for trial. That means Padilla will likely spend his birthday Tuesday in jail.

The 53-year-old Padilla was the latest Hidalgo County lawman to come under federal indictment on drug trafficking counts. He had been second-in-command at the sheriff's office until being fired following his arrest Dec. 24, ending his 24-year tenure with the agency.

Padilla is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering. Federal investigators say he is tied to a South Texas drug ring, but have not released details of his involvement. He has pleaded not guilty.

Padilla invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid testifying at the trial last summer of a deputy eventually convicted for his role in a drug trafficking scheme. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said at that time he had no grounds to fire Padilla, who had a 32-year career in law enforcement, but moved quickly to terminate him after his arrest.

Nine former officers from the sheriff's office and local police departments, including Trevino's son, were convicted last year in a case that targeted the "Panama Unit." The joint unit was supposed to target street-level drug crime but some of its members instead were stealing drug loads for resale.

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