(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) – A sealed indictment charging a former juror with conspiring to obstruct jury deliberations with the goal of acquitting two defendants and contempt of court has been unsealed, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. The former juror served on a jury in a drug trafficking case in federal court in McAllen, Texas, which ended in a mistrial in 2008.
Maximino Gonzalez, aka “Max,” 36, of Palmview, Texas, was arrested by FBI agents on Friday, Jan. 8, 2010, without incident. The three-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Houston on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, was unsealed following Gonzalez’s initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Felix Recio in Brownville this morning. Gonzalez, who has been in custody since his arrest, has been ordered to remain in federal custody without bond pending a detention hearing set for Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, at 1:30 p.m. The trial against Gonzalez will be prosecuted in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.
Gonzalez is accused of conspiring with others to influence, obstruct and impede a jury from convicting Guadalupe Hernandez and Abraham Hernandez. The Hernandez’s are brothers who were charged with drug trafficking offenses in criminal case number M-07-CR-144, United States v. Guadalupe Hernandez et. al. Gonzalez is also charged with obstructing and impeding a jury trial and contempt of court for failing to abide by the court’s order not to communicate or discuss anything about the case during trial with anyone and to decide the case based on court admitted evidence.
Gonzalez was summoned for jury duty and ultimately selected to serve on the jury which was to hear the case against the Hernandez brothers and two other defendants in November 2008. According to allegations in the indictment, in November 2008, during jury selection, Gonzalez and other jurors received a number of specific orders from the court regarding a juror’s duties and responsibilities, including the prohibitions against discussing the case with non-jurors or interacting with people regarding the case during the pendency of the case and the obligation to advise the court if he were approached by anyone regarding the case. Despite the court’s orders, Gonzalez is alleged to have met with and discussed witness testimony and jury deliberations with the Hernandez brothers and their associates and agreed to take action to acquit the Hernandez brothers. Jury deliberations began on Nov. 24, 2008, and for the majority of the jury deliberations, Gonzalez allegedly refused to deliberate unless the jurors agreed to acquit the Hernandez brothers. Gonzalez allegedly informed Guadalupe Hernandez that during jury deliberations, the jury had concerns regarding the availability of United Postal Service labels. According to the indictment, Guadalupe Hernandez obtained labels, provided the labels to Gonzalez and Gonzalez provided the labels to the jury as evidence that the labels were not illegal. On Dec. 5, 2008, Gonzalez was removed as a juror during jury deliberations because of his actions. On Dec. 8, 2008, United States District Court Judge Randy Crane, who presided over the trial, declared a mistrial.
A conviction for conspiracy to obstruct the due administration of justice carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than five years and/or a fine not to exceed $250,000. A conviction for obstructing the due administration of justice carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than 20 years and/or a fine. In the case of a contempt of court conviction, the court is empowered to punish by fine or imprisonment, or both, at its discretion.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by agents of the McAllen Office of the FBI with the assistance of the McAllen Office of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Wright.
A indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.