EL PASO — It's been the day of reckoning for four trusted public officials who wound up on the wrong side of the law. All four turned themselves in for their part in the Access Health Source scandal.
The four of the eleven figures indicted in that scandal to get a health care company potential business in the El Paso, Socorro and Ysleta school districts.
On Tuesday, Federal District Judge Frank Montalvo frowned and occasionally thundered. He scolded each of the former elected officials for betraying the people of El Paso county.
One by one they stood before the judge, expecting and hearing bad news. Attorney and Former City Representative David Escobar told the judge he's lived under a self-inflicted cloud since 2007, after disgracing his family and his profession. Judge Montalvo agreed. Escobar will serve the maximum 41 months in a federal prison, followed by three years of probation. He'll pay a $10,000 fine and repay Ysleta ISD more than $4,200.
Then, there was Linda Chavez, the one-time Ysleta School Board Trustee. She tearfully told the judge that she never accepted a bribe in exchange for her votes, that she was simply naive and unaware of other' people's greedy intent. She won't go to prison but will serve five years of probation starting with 30 days in a halfway house. And she'll pay $9,000 in restitution back to the Ysleta schools she was supposed to serve.
Milton Duntley was another Ysleta Board Trustee who admits he lost focus during those days and made poor decisions. As a goodwill gesture, Duntley brought a $20,000 check with him. That will be a start. He gets 41 months in prison, three years of probation, and that $20,000 is a down payment on the $30,000 he owes YISD.
And former city representative, mayor pro tem and county commissioner Lorenzo “Larry” Medina wept in front of the judge, promising when he gets out of prison to go from one government office to another if he's allowed, warning people to quote, “Learn from my failure.” That would be at least 16 months from now. That's Medina's prison sentence, along with probation and a big hit to the bank account. A $100,000 fine, and penalties of almost 5,700, calculated to reflect his salary and benefits on commissioners court.
Outside the courthouse, Duntley's lawyer said this is a lesson for everybody in public service
"It is easy if you are a public official to do things you ought not to do and in all things act in the most ethical manner possible and you'll avoid these types of situations," said Mario Gonzalez.
Judge Montalvo may agree to allow Medina, Escobar and Duntley to serve their sentences in a facility close to El Paso, and possibly a minimum security prison.