Former Goliad County Sheriff's deputy acquitted of assaulting Victoria police officer

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Oct. 11, 2012 at 5:11 a.m.
Updated Oct. 12, 2012 at 5:12 a.m.

A Victoria police officer believes her ex-boyfriend, a former Goliad County Sheriff's deputy, who she says brutally beat her, may be going free because a jury misunderstood some legal terms.

After deliberating for about four hours Wednesday, the jury found former Goliad County Sheriff's Office deputy Roger E. Capistran not guilty of assaulting Victoria police officer Heather Rodriguez.

The pair dated for a little more than year when Rodriguez broke up with him on Feb. 20. Then, a fight broke out about 4 p.m. over who owned a Kindle Fire, Assistant District Attorney Terry Breen said.

He said Rodriguez testified during the three-day trial that Capistran grabbed her by her ponytail, yanked her back into the house and punched her in the head.

"He used his hands to choke her," Breen said. "She testified she couldn't breath and thought she was going to die."

Breen said that Capistran said on the stand that they were both holding onto the Kindle, arguing about passwords and he let go after she bit his hand.

"He said it was possible that, when he let go, the Kindle, from her own exertion, hit her in the head," Breen said. "(Capistran) said she left in perfectly fine form."

Rodriguez contended she escaped and gave her statement to a Goliad County Sheriff's deputy, who took photos showing she had a bump on her head, a knot above her right eye, a red throat and a bloody lip, Breen said.

"She couldn't write because she was completely frazzled," Breen said, adding investigators later heard her voice getting raspy. "He said he could see finger marks on her throat, but the photograph was too pixelated to make that out."

Breen said a second statement she typed up weeks later, which he described as protocol, may have appeared suspicious to jurors.

Neither statement was admitted into evidence.

A 2009 law elevated the charge, which would ordinarily be a class A misdemeanor, to a third-degree felony because Capistran "impeded" her breathing in the alleged family violence incident, Breen said.

Because Capistran was acquitted, he is still eligible to be a peace officer, said his attorney Brent Dornburg.

Capistran was hired as a patrol deputy on Oct. 5, 2010, but fired after his March 19 indictment, Goliad County Treasurer Daphne Buelter said.

Capistran now works in the oil industry, Dornburg said.

He said Rodriguez's story didn't line up.

"She testified that one of the first things she did when he had pulled her down by her hair was bite him on the hand ... in the statements, she said she bit him on the hand to get away," Dornburg said.

Breen offered Capistran a deal months before the trial, but Capistran turned it down. On Wednesday, Breen said Capistran tried to accept the deal.

"It was a little late in the day, so I turned it down," Breen said. "It would've been probation of some sort, but you know, had I known all that I later learned while getting ready for trial, I wouldn't have made that offer. It was too light."

Rodriguez said she'll probably have surgery to correct her shifted jaw.

"It didn't even cross my mind (Goliad County Sheriff's deputies) wouldn't believe me," she said of the investigation.

Other witnesses in the trial said Capistran has been violent before.

Capistran's ex-wife recalled how he jammed her against the wall and squeezed her throat. She did not press charges against him then, Breen said.

Dornburg said justice was done.

"It is always sad when you have to deal with allegations like this. Mr. Capistran lost his job due to this situation. I am proud of him for standing his ground and maintaining his innocence," Dornburg said. "The jury obviously spent a great deal of time and effort deliberating, and should be commended for their efforts."

Rodriguez was hired on Jan. 7 as a patrol officer for the Victoria Police Department, where she still works.



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