By LYNN BREZOSKY
San Antonio Express-news
BROWNSVILLE — Reymundo Guerra's resignation as Starr County sheriff didn't convince a federal magistrate judge to set bail for the former lawman, who is accused of using his position to assist high-ranking members of a drug cartel.
Defense attorney Philip Hilder said Guerra would appeal Monday's bail denial by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos. Unless overturned by a district court, Ramos' decision means Guerra will remain behind bars pending trial in early December.
Guerra, who had been sheriff for the past decade, submitted his resignation over the weekend after Ramos expressed concern about his return to the office he allegedly abused.
The Starr County Commissioners Court approved the resignation during an emergency meeting Monday morning.
Guerra has been in federal custody since being arrested at his Rio Grande City office last Tuesday.
He is one of 15 defendants in a 19-count federal indictment alleging conspiracy to move cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the interior United States.
He has pleaded not guilty to three charges including conspiracy, accessory after the fact, and using a telephone to further a drug conspiracy. He faces 10 years to life in prison, plus a $4 million fine on the conspiracy charge alone.
An FBI agent testified during a detention hearing Friday that Guerra asked a sheriff's department investigator to reveal intelligence to a man Guerra said had ties to Mexican law enforcement.
The man, 31-year-old Jose Carlos Hinojosa, was named along with Guerra and 13 others in the indictment and is believed to be a leader in the Gulf Cartel.
Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said the sheriff's office would for now be under the command of Chief Deputy Rene Fuentes, who is next in the chain of command.
Since Guerra was running unopposed in the Nov. 4 election, he effectively starts a new term as sheriff in January, Vera said.
"At that time, the topic will come up again," Vera said.
If convicted, Guerra will join a list of other border law enforcement officials, including predecessor Eugenio "Gene" Falcon, who have fallen amid alleged drug crimes or corruption.