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Attorneys say domestic violence charge against Hidalgo police chief is ‘unlawful and unwarranted’

Attorneys for Hidalgo police Chief Rudy Espinoza called the domestic violence charge against him “unlawful and unwarranted” during a news conference Thursday.

A sheriff’s deputy arrested Espinoza after responding to a 911 call from Arlene Hernandez, 43, of Reynosa — who attorneys described as Espinoza’s girlfriend — minutes before midnight on Dec. 26.

Rudy Espinoza HCSO Booking PhotoDuring an argument at Espinoza’s home on Inspiration Road, she claimed that he “grabbed her by the neck and pinned her against the wall,” according to the probable cause statement prepared by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. Attorneys for Espinoza, though, said the probable cause statement doesn’t accurately describe what happened.

“Both Chief Espinoza and Ms. Hernandez dispute the facts of the case as written in the probable cause statement because the statement does not accurately depict the actual facts,” said attorney Alex Guajardo.

The arrest caused irreparable harm to Espinoza’s reputation, Guajardo said, adding that news reports about the arrest amplified the damage.

Sheriff Eddie Guerra declined to address statements made by Espinoza’s attorneys.

“It’s an open case and I’m not going to comment on it,” Guerra said. “When it’s done it will be submitted to the DA’s office.”

Rodolfo “Rudy” Espinoza, 64, of Mission worked for the Edinburg Police Department and the McAllen Police Department before joining the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office in 2003.

He forged a friendship with High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force Cmdr. Lupe Treviño, a rising star in Hidalgo County politics. Espinoza supported Treviño for sheriff in November 2004.

Treviño won. Espinoza followed him to the sheriff’s office, becoming an administrative captain.

After nearly eight years working for the sheriff, Espinoza left for Hidalgo in October 2012.

The Panama Unit corruption scandal rocked the Sheriff’s Office just two months later. Federal agents arrested Espinoza’s son, Mission police Officer Alexis Espinoza, and Treviño’s son, Mission police Officer Jonathan Treviño.

They pleaded guilty. A separate scandal sent Sheriff Treviño to prison in 2014.

With the exception of a ticket-fixing scandal and a strange incident where Espinoza apparently shot himself in the leg, he kept a relatively low profile in Hidalgo.

That changed on Oct. 16, when the city suspended Espinoza with pay amid concerns about “allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct and potential conflict of interests,” according to a memo placed in Espinoza’s personnel file.

The city asked Espinoza to surrender his badge, gun, keys and city-issued vehicle. It also disabled his Hidalgo email account.

Less than a week after the city suspended him, Espinoza filed for divorce, according to Hidalgo County court records.

The incident on Dec. 26 involved his girlfriend, Arlene Hernandez. The probable cause statement, however, misidentified her as Espinoza’s common-law wife, said Guajardo, who called the news conference Thursday to clarify what happened.

According to the probable cause statement, Hernandez said she went to a party in Reynosa but didn’t tell Espinoza.

“Rodolfo got upset and they began to argue when she returned home from the party,” according to the probable cause statement, which continued: “Rodolfo grabbed her by the neck and pinned her against a wall.”

Hernandez attempted to leave.

“Arlene stated that she told Rodolfo she was leaving the home and Rodolfo grabbed her by her left arm forcing her down to the sofa and pressing down on her chest with both of his hands, causing her pain,” according to the probable cause statement.

Attorneys for Espinoza said the probable cause statement twisted the facts.

“It is our understanding based on our investigation and discussion with both parties that Chief Espinoza’s only physical contact was placing his hands on Ms. Hernandez’s shoulders to get her attention and a bear hug to carry her out and remove her from his home,” according to a statement released by Espinoza’s attorneys. “Ms. Hernandez then acted out of humiliation and called authorities in what she says was (sic) to repossess her belongings after being asked to leave Chief Espinoza’s home. Ms. Hernandez never intended to file charges against Chief Espinoza and does not want to file charges against Chief Espinoza.”

To support that story, attorneys for Espinoza released the two-page affidavit that Hernandez signed just hours before the news conference.

Hernandez didn’t attend the news conference. Guajardo, the attorney who represents Espinoza, said he didn’t know her whereabouts or how to contact her.

“I can only comment on behalf of my client,” Guajardo said, adding later: “Should she wish to comment, that’s entirely her decision.”

Espinoza is charged with assault causing bodily injury to a family member, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison.

Conviction on the misdemeanor charge would make Espinoza ineligible to hold a peace officer license without a waiver from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

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