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Nearly 100 criminal cases dismissed in El Paso County, more up for review

Magistrate court hearing
Aaron Montes
/
El Paso County magistrate judge Beto Acosta dismissed 100 criminal cases under a Texas criminal code requirement on Monday during a hearing at the El Paso County Courthouse.

EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) - A judge dismissed nearly 100 criminal cases after awaiting an indictment from the El Paso District Attorney’s office. Jail magistrate Humberto Acosta dismissed the cases in a matter of hours Monday under a state law that requires an indictment be made in 180 days.

Under the Texas Code of Criminal procedure, the district attorney’s office or prosecutor acting on behalf of the state has 180 days after an arrest to bring an indictment against someone who is arrested. Beyond that time frame, a judge may grant a dismissal of the case, according to the code of criminal procedure.

The oldest case that was dismissed dates back nearly 1,000 days ago when Roberto Antonio Castillo was taken into custody for resisting arrest. He was never indicted.

The El Paso County District Attorney’s Office stated prosecutors are “still capable of filing charges as the cases are still within the statute of limitations, which can range from 2-10 years for most cases” according to an emailed statement in response to a request for comment.

The public defender's office will request the court dismiss 435 cases this week, according to Kelli Childress, the chief public defender. Hearings are set twice a day in the El Paso County Courthouse.

“These are individuals who need the relief and they’re entitled to the relief,” Childress said. “These tend to linger and by the time they get charged, if they get charged, for us, evidence disappears, witnesses disappear and memories fade. For our clients, it’s worse because by the time they come to trial, in some cases, they’ve had a de facto probation sentence for up to a year.”

Adam Chevrier, a trial attorney with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office, in court rarely objected to Childress’ requests for the jail magistrate to dismiss cases . The district attorney’s office asked for a hold on one case involving sexual assault.

The cases include charges of possession of drugs, driving while intoxicated, family violence, interfering with public duties, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, and resisting arrest.

District Attorney Yvonne Rosales’ office said Victim Advocate services are still assisting victims while the cases are pending filing.

Her office said “personnel shortages and covid backlog issues” were the reason for the delays in filing indictments.

“The actions taken by the Public Defender’s Office, in conjunction with the Jail Magistrate Humberto Acosta, are unprecedented but not unique, as the same actions are being taken by defense attorneys across the State of Texas…”

Childress says there are thousands of pre-filed cases, or records of arrested individuals without an indictment.

“It’s a huge burden on the system. It’s a huge burden on the pretrial officers. It’s a burden on my department because for us, particularly, it’s really difficult to start investigating and preparing a case when you have no rights to pretrial motions or process of court or discovery or anything like that.”