New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - September 10, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas
NB man gets 80 years for attacking girlfriendSaturday, September IO, 2005 — Herald-Zeitung — Page 5A
By Ron Maloney
A 31-year-old New Braunfels man was sentenced to 80 years in prison Friday for allegedly breaking into a home and attacking his estranged girlfriend with a knife.
Hugo A. Villegas, 31, was convicted Thursday on charges of burglary of a habitation and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for breaking into the home of a New Braunfels woman on May 29,2003, and slashing at her with a knife.
She sustained defensive wounds on her hands and arms and a serious wound on her upper torso that nearly cut into her lungs and missed an artery by less than an inch.
Villegas will be eligible for parole in 40 years.
The offense occurred while Villegas was free on bail on a March 8,2003, possession of cocaine charge — and before his subsequent arrest on federal charges for allegedly bringing illegal immigrants across the Mexico border for money.
At his trial this week, Villegas’ wife — whom he subsequently married while a federal inmate for the immigration charge — testified Villegas committed the smuggling offense to raise money for his defense in New Braunfels.
Defense attorney Martin Zimmerman attempted to block the trial this week, arguing that Villegas had been denied due process in his handling by local and federal officials and in delays and transportation issues that prevented him from hav-ing enough access to his client to adequately defend him. Zimmerman also questioned the makeup of the jury pool that resulted in a jury’ of seven men and five women, only one of whom was I lis-panic.
“This is not over,” Zimmerman said Friday. “This will be appealed.”
Jurors who heard testimony this week and deliberated less than two hours before convicting Villegas Thursday, took about the same amount of time Friday to assess him a penalty that will mean he will be at least 70 years old before he again gets outside prison walls.
Prosecutor Joe Soane 111 attacked Villegas in his closing argument Friday in which he asked jurors to assess him a penalty of at least 60 years.
“During Mr. Zimmerman’s opening statement, he stated he would convey to you what kind of person Mr. Villegas is," Soane said. “I think
you have a pretty good idea what kind of person he is.”
Soane outlined Villegas’ criminal history for the jury.
In 1992, he was convicted in Travis County on a charge of burglary of a building. That same year in New Braunfels, he shot a local man who spent 37 days in intensive care. Villegas was sentenced to IO years in state prison.
Soon after he got out of prison, Villegas began coming to the attention of law enforcement again. Soane said the time for rehabilitation was well past when it came to Villegas.
“With the burglary of a building charge, you see he is a thief,” Soane told the jury. “With the aggravated assault charges, you see he’s violent. And in the 1992 case, he shot a man here in New Braunfels. He’s a drug abuser. The charge of transporting illegal immigrants for money shows he is an individual who consistently takes advantage of others. Mr. Villegas has left a chain of victims in his life.”
Villegas was living a fast, criminal, drug-abusing lifestyle instead of taking care of his family, Soane said.
“We know what he was spending his money on," he said. “Ile has expressed a complete disdain for the court system and the legal system. I le’s had four strikes and this is his fifth. Its too dangerous for him to be out and he doesn’t deserve to live here anymore.”
Zimmerman painted a much different picture of Vil-legas for the jury.
He spoke of the family’s love for the defendant and of his love for his wife and children.
“You heard from Mr. Villegas’ wife. You saw her in the courtroom and you heard from members of Mr. Villegas’ family," Zimmerman said.
“You heard her testify that when he is home he shows his love.”
There were factors in Villegas’ life that the jury should consider in mitigation, Zimmerman said.
"Justice and mercy both go together," he said, arguing that jurors consider the lower end of the timeframe Villegas faced in prison.
In his rebuttal, First Assistant District Attorney Ed Springer scoffed at the idea of a short sentence for Villegas and argued that he should spend the rest of bis life in prison.
“In some cases, 15 years is an appropriate punishment,” Springer said. “Every case should be considered on the facts.”
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FEMA says it will end plan to give evacuees debit cards
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government’s relief agency said Friday it will discontinue its program to distribute $2,000 debit cards to hurricane victims and use bank deposits instead, two days after hastily announcing the novel plan to provide quick relief.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will scrap the program
once officials finish distributing cards this weekend at shelters in Dallas, I lous-ton and San Antonio, where many of the evacuees were moved. No cards will be issued to victims in other states.
Hurricane victims at other locations will have to apply for expedited aid through the agency’s traditional route — filling out information on FEMAsWeb
site to receive direct bank deposits, ELMA spokeswoman Natal ie Rule said.
"We tried it as an innovative way to get aid to evacuee populations in Texas. We decided it would be more expeditious with direct deposits,” she said, citing the large staffing operation that would be required to replicate the Texas operation in other states.
CONTINUED FROM Page 1A
Members met up at shelter in Houston
up residence in Rock Hill Gospel’s retreat facilities.
While most of the group left New Orleans separately, they managed to find each other in Houston. The church’s two 15-passenger vans brought them the rest of the way.
When they arrived, they were greeted with beds, clothes, food and open arms. Rock Hill s Pastor Bubba Collins and his congregation, with help from other local churches and organizations, bad turned the center’s dorm facilities into an almost four-star hotel.
Collins said it was a miracle how everything had come together.
“We’ve just been overwhelmed by all of the people who have helped us,” he said. “Its been amazing.”
The kitchen and dining room were lined with shelves full of food brought by locals who heard about Rock I fill’s commitment to the evacuees. They brought canned goods, perishable items and refrigerators to keep everything cool.
Down the hall, one former Sunday school classroom is full of donated clothing.
Smith’s wife, Tammy, said arriving at Rock Hill was a blessing.
“Its a place of refuge, and people are supplying all our needs,” she said. “We left everything behind. We had
Photos by DAVID INGRAM Herald-Zeitung
Hurricane Katrina evacuee Scherod Stewart Jr., 2, runs his toy school bus through his grits and eggs while eating a late breakfast Friday afternoon with family staying at the Rock Hill Gospel Church. Below, Rock Hill Gospel Church pastor Bubba Collins goes over a Bible verse with Paula Jenkins and daughter, Dejah, 14, while younger 3 year-old Dejon Hudgins plays on the top bunk.
nothing before we got here.”
Tammy was one of the first people from the church to arrive at Rock I fill after being separated from her husband during the Superdome evacuation. The eight days they spent apart were the first during their 18-vear marriage.
Like her husband, Tammy said she was relieved to be going through this crisis with her church family.
“It makes me appreciate God s goodness so much, lf it wasn’t for God and our bishop, I don’t know what we would have done,” she said.
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