Rangers investigate election of convicted murderer

Karn Dhingra By Karn Dhingra

July 14, 2016 at 11:30 p.m.
Updated July 15, 2016 at 9:48 a.m.

The Texas Rangers are investigating accusations of voter fraud, including the election of a convicted felon to a Victoria County water board.

"The Rangers are investigating at the request of the Victoria County DA after they received a complaint regarding the Bloomington water board elections," Trooper Deon Cockrell, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman, said Wednesday.

The investigation comes on the heels of the May 7 board election in which Ruben Gonzales, who was convicted of murder in 1982, was elected to the Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 board.

He was appointed to the board in 2011 and served through 2014. This was his first election.

By state law, Gonzales was not eligible to be elected or hold office because of the felony conviction.

Gonzales, who was 28 at the time, pleaded guilty in 1982 to a murder charge stemming from the stabbing death of Erineo "Eddie" Castillo at the former Ramirez Club in Victoria. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to a 1982 Victoria Advocate story.

He was paroled in 1984, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Gonzales, who is now a preacher, was granted a judicial clemency discharge in 1989, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.

Gonzales said he thought he was eligible to run for elected office.

"I didn't know I was doing something illegal," Gonzales said earlier this week.

Absent a full pardon, a person with a felony conviction who wants to run for elected office must receive specific approval from a judge to become a candidate for office, according to Texas law.

May 24, nearly three weeks after Gonzales' election victory, his attorney, Bernard Klimist, wrote a letter to Mike Gershon, an Austin attorney who represents the Bloomington water board, asking him to get Gonzales' paperwork to serve on the board to the board's president.

He had been unable to reach the president, Noemi Troncoso.

The president said she avoided accepting Gonzales' documents because of his past.

"We had customers who were concerned we were putting a convicted felon on the board," Troncoso said. "We had no knowledge of his past when he came into office."

Troncoso asked Gershon to look into Gonzales' record after she received multiple complaints about Gonzales' past.

Gonzales said he had done nothing wrong and said Troncoso and Lucy Morales, vice president of Bloomington's water board, should be investigated for illegal activity.

Gonzales refused to specify what illegal activity Morales and Troncoso had done as members of the water board.

May 31, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice sent a letter to Gershon confirming Gonzales' murder conviction.

One week later, on June 2, Gonzales submitted a letter to Troncoso declining to take his seat on the water board.

Jesse Pena, a Bloomington businessman, received the next highest votes. He was appointed to Gonzales' vacant seat.

"We had no idea Ruben had a felony," Gershon said, when asked why the board had not looked into Gonzales' past when he served on Bloomington's water board from 2011-2014.


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