Monday, February 11, 2008

Some are set free

Ahh, Bexar County politics, a contact sport.

Ex-sheriff remains free as buddy of 15 years goes to prison
Ken Rodriguez: San Antonio Express-News

"I don't know anybody, including members of my own family, who are more honest and have more integrity than John Reynolds" — former Sheriff Ralph Lopez, June 14, 2003
For 15 years, Ralph Lopez wore the badge of Bexar County Sheriff. For 15 years, the sheriff leaned on the counsel of John Reynolds, a trusted friend and crook.

A judge recently sentenced Reynolds to 10 years in prison for theft. For Lopez, that's one telling snapshot of his law and order legacy. A corrupt partner sits behind bars.

Lopez, meanwhile, remains free. He pleaded no contest to receiving a free golf and fishing trip from a jail contractor and escaped with probation. That means he could be on a putting green somewhere, enjoying his golden years.
How criminally ironic is that? One golfing buddy goes to the slammer. Another hits the links.
I don't know if Lopez, as he once famously promised, will send cookies to Reynolds in the state pen.

But if he wants to, Lopez could tip his golfing cap and say, "Be on your best behavior and I'll see you in 21/2 years."
Lopez and Reynolds were partners in white-collar crime. They didn't shoot anyone. They just murdered public trust.
Reynolds solicited money for fake charities. Lopez accepted unlawful benefits.

Legally, the story ends with the sheriff resigning in disgrace, and his friend going to prison. In the messy aftermath, though, questions remain.
When, for example, did Lopez realize his friend/adviser/golfing buddy/campaign manager was a thief?

If you believe Lopez, he did not feel the slap of truth until the end.

Less than two weeks before his no contest plea in September, Lopez professed shock that Reynolds may have committed a criminal act.

Think about that. Lopez spent decades chasing criminals as a police officer and sheriff. He recognized their tracks. He followed their clues. He could spot them miles away. But he couldn't tell Reynolds was a crook after 15 years of golfing and fundraising?

Louis Cruz, former architect for the Alamo Community Colleges, provided a major clue years ago. He told authorities in 2003 that Reynolds gave him the idea of bribing an ACCD trustee.
According to an arrest affidavit, Cruz said Reynolds asked for a $2,000 donation to the Democratic Party. Cruz also said he'd funnel the money to a trustee.

No one proved that claim. And some questioned the accuser's credibility. Cruz, after all, had confessed to bribing an ACCD chairman to get a $1.2 million contract.

San Antonio Express-News reporter John Tedesco asked Lopez what he thought about the Cruz claim. Lopez replied with the quote at the top of this column.

Honest John. That's how Lopez characterized a thief.

Did years of friendship blind Lopez to the truth about Reynolds? Or did Lopez accept his crookedness all along?

Last summer, Lopez said Reynolds would remain his campaign manager even if his friend created bogus charity accounts.

Lopez later backed away from the promise, then professed shock when the noose of justice tightened around a man accused of criminal lapses for years. Honest John?

Reynolds faces 10 years for stealing $32,000. Lopez faces a life of golf and shame. He escapes jail but not a reputation. Lopez was the sheriff who served with a criminal sidekick.