Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bribery trial of former San Angelo police chief Tim Vasquez delayed until 2021

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The trial of former San Angelo police chief Tim Vasquez will not happen until 2021, according to court documents. The trial, originally set for this month was reset for February 16, 2021 at the federal United States Courthouse in Lubbock. The date is over 13 months since his arrest in January of this year. Vasquez has been out on bail since.

The former police chief is accused of receiving bribes from a San Antonio radio vendor. Specifically, he faces one count of receipt of a bribe as an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud.

“The defendant manipulated a government procurement process to personally profit for years. This abuse of power affected a system that is supposed to be fair and unbiased,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office Matthew J. DeSarno. “Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities. We will continue to hold elected officials accountable for violating the trust of their constituents.”

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Vasquez was on a City committee that recommended public safety radio equipment and the selection of the vendor. While Vasquez was one of the influencers for the City decisions on selecting the vendor, said vendor had hired Vaquez’s band over the years to perform at company parties.
 Vasquez’s defense attorney argued in federal court in August that the case was complex and that the COVID-19 closures of the federal court system have delayed discovery.

“[T]he court finds that the ends of justice served by granting a continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and defendant in a speedy trial,” wrote U.S. district Judge James Wesley Hendrix in ordering the resetting of the trial date.

Vasquez’s defense maintains that the federal case is flimsy. He is accused by the feds of accepting $134,000 in bribes paid through hiring his band, Funky Munky, in return for advocating for “Vendor 1” to be awarded $13 million in contracts for a new public safety radio system for the City of San Angelo over about 10 years.

His attorney, David Guinn of Lubbock, has been emphatic of Vasquez’s innocence.

“Everybody knew Tim had a nine-piece band and it was not free,” Guinn said. “And they were still cheaper than many of the San Antonio bands that didn’t have to travel three hours to San Antonio to perform,” Guinn suggested that the San Antonio companies mentioned in the indictment were hiring Funky Munky because the San Angelo musicians were a good value, not because Vasquez was advocating for the $13 million San Angelo radio contract in exchange for the vendor to hire his band.

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Guinn admits his client’s actions have an appearance of being unethical, however, it does not rise to the level of a federal crime where Vasquez faces up to 70 years behind bars, he said.

The court order delaying the trial does so for two reasons. They are the complex nature of the case and also the slowdown of discovery caused by the pandemic response.

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