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Public Corruption: How Prosecutors, Defendants Deal With Mountain Of Evidence

As the clock ticks towards the April 2 trial of the eleven defendants in the massive public corruption case dubbed “Operation Poisoned Pawns,” defendants are asking prosecutors to disclose exactly what they’re accused of and the names of everyone implicated.

The indictment unsealed September 2010 describes a conspiracy that involves elected officials from different school districts and even city council, along with businessmen and attorneys — all accused of scheming to give a company called Access the contracts to administer employees’ health plans for the El Paso, Ysleta and Socorro ISDs, the city and the county of El Paso.

But to this day, the indictment remains coded with only mentions of “Co-conspirator 1,” “Co-conspirator 2,” etc. Defendants Larry Medina, a former city councilman; Mickey Duntley, a former YISD board president; Marc Schwartz, a consultant; and Luther Jones, an attorney and former county judge, want to know who the 14 co-conspirators are and exactly how the government alleges the conspiracy happened.

In a document filed Tuesday, prosecutors object to their request, saying they’ve already disclosed enough details to allow defendants to prepare for trial.

The document also details the intricate dance between prosecutors and defendants as they sift through the mountain of evidence that, according to records, took six years to compile and if printed on paper, it “would take up the entire federal building,” prosecutors said.

– The government organized evidence by subject matter and/or type

– It generated tables of contents for each computer disk provided, indicating the location of the various categories of evidence.

– The FBI bought hard drives and created mirror images of all of the computer evidence

– The government provided a list of the search terms used by agents to identify relevant evidence.

– It made seized documents available

– It offered FBI agents and/or analysts familiar with the evidence to help locate it. Prosecutors say only Larry Medina’s attorney took them up on the offer, though he only stayed 15 minutes.

– Prosecutors say they’ve met repeatedly with attorneys to discuss the theory of their case and the evidence

Prosecutors say they are willing to disclose the names of the unindicted conspirators, as long as the judge seals the document so their names don’t become public.

Judge Frank Montalvo, who has had knowledge of the public corruption probe since investigators asked him to approve wire taps years ago, is presiding over the case and is considering the motions. He has ensured much of the case remains secret.

Also facing trial are businessman Frank Apodaca Jr., former County Clerk Gilbert Sanchez, attorney David Escobar, former YISD trustee Linda Chavez, former SISD trustees Willie Gandara Sr., Charlie Garcia and Ray Rodriguez.

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