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Texas Juror Met With Drug Dealer Defendants During Trial

houston-mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

When it comes to a federal juror stepping over the line, Maximino Gonzalez rates right up there with the best of them.

Maximino, 36, of Palmview, Tex., who served on a jury in 2008, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Houston on Monday to jury tampering  after he met with defendants during trial and tried to get them acquitted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The trial ended in a mistrial.

He has been in custody since his arrest in January. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Gonzalez was on a jury in November 2008. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that during the trial Gonzalez contacted an unindicted drug dealer implicated by testimony in the trial.

He also contacted two defendants in the trial, brothers Guadalupe and Abraham Hernandez, “to discuss the trial testimony”, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Fellow jurors told authorities that Gonzalez during deliberations offered to convict the two remaining defendants in exchange for the acquittal of the Hernandez brothers.

The judge removed him from the jury on Dec. 5. Three days later, a mistrial was declared, authorities said.

He later met with an unindicted co-conspirator and asked for a $1,500 “loan”, saying he had helped save the Hernandez brothers.

Authorities say in July 2009, “Gonzalez voluntarily provided a three-page handwritten signed statement to FBI agents admitting his illegal conduct.”

His statement said: “I knew that it was wrong to meet with Lupe or any other person related to the case, but it was already too late because I was already there. I decided not to report it because I know that I had done wrong.” Gonzalez was indicted in January 2010.

“Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities because of its potential to undermine our democracy,” said Ralph Diaz, head of the FBI’s San Antonio office. “Jury tampering is a serious threat to the proper functioning of our justice system. The FBI will aggressively pursue all jury tampering allegations and ensure that those involved are held accountable.”


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