A federal judge sent former La Joya police Chief Geovani Hernandez to jail Tuesday for making inappropriate Facebook posts.
Hernandez — who is awaiting trial on federal drug trafficking charges — posted derogatory comments about a federal agent, a federal prosecutor and a federal witness or informant.
“So now the question is: Is he intimidating witnesses by doing that?” Crane said. “And I would say ‘Probably.’”
After reviewing the screenshots, Crane admonished Hernandez to stop posting about the case on Facebook and sent him to jail until Friday.
Federal agents arrested Geovani V. Hernandez, 44, of McAllen in August 2017, when he worked for the Progreso Police Department.
He took the job in Progreso after a 10-month stint as La Joya police chief. Hernandez, though, is perhaps best known for challenging then-Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño in the March 2012 Democratic Party primary.
Rumors about connections between Hernandez and drug traffickers circulated for years.
Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sent an informant to meet with Hernandez in May 2017.
Hernandez told the informant he knew Juan Manuel “El Toro” Loza-Salinas, the Gulf Cartel plaza boss in Reynosa, and could travel through Tamaulipas without any problems, according to the criminal complaint against him. During the conversation, Hernandez also mentioned that he needed money to run for Hidalgo County constable.
Agents started planning a sting.
The informant started by asking Hernandez to conduct record checks, supposedly to identify vehicles and determine whether or not someone worked for the government. After they developed a relationship, the informant asked Hernandez to provide security for cocaine shipments, according to the criminal complaint. He agreed.
Federal agents arrested Hernandez on Aug. 12, 2017. After the arrest, Hernandez moved to a trailer park in McAllen.
He struggled to find a job and spent hours on Facebook, sharing news stories about corrupt federal agents and posting snippets of audio from court hearings.
What, exactly, Hernandez posted that concerned prosecutors remains unclear.
During the hearing on Tuesday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Rees and attorney David Acosta, who represents Hernandez, discussed the Facebook posts with the judge but didn’t read them aloud or display them on the projector.
Hernandez deactivated his Facebook accounts several days before the hearing. As a result, the Progress Times couldn’t independently review the posts in question.
In the Facebook posts, Hernandez claimed the case agent is corrupt, Rees said. Hernandez also called the agent a liar and suggested the agent would be prosecuted for misconduct.
Attorneys didn’t identify the case agent by name, but Special Agent Antonio Perez of Homeland Security Investigations is listed on court records.
Hernandez also posted about a government informant or witness, Rees said. Someone responded by posting a photo of the person.
“He then applauds the photo,” Crane said. “Like ‘You got it right.’”
Along with posts about the case agent and the government informant or witness, Hernandez made comments about a federal prosecutor. Rees said she believed those posts were about her.
The most recent Facebook post apparently included comments about the city of La Joya and an unnamed police chief.
“It was very brief,” said Acosta, the attorney who represents Hernandez. “I believe after a few moments he removed it.”
Acosta described the commentary as free speech and compared the Facebook posts to information released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
If the government is allowed to mention comments Hernandez supposedly made about a Gulf Cartel boss, which aren’t relevant to the charges against him, Hernandez should be allowed to express his opinions about the government, Acosta said. He compared the Facebook posts to news releases.
Crane didn’t appear to buy that argument, noting the posts about witnesses and government informants could affect the case.
“He’s on pretrial release,” Crane said, referring to Hernandez. “He can’t say that.”