By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Muñoz had signed an affidavit prepared by Garcia's office that claimed Guajardo had introduced himself to her as a lawyer at a funeral home in 2007 after her husband's death and told her she "had a good case" worth "thousands of dollars." The night before the February hearing, Guajardo appeared at her doorstep unannounced at 9 p.m. He'd prepared a new affidavit in Spanish that recanted her assertion that he'd introduced himself as an attorney and tried to solicit her case. Over the course of three hours, she took issue with some of the phrases in the new document, and before he finally left, at around 12:30 a.m., she signed it. When she appeared in court the next day she seemed flustered and confused, and her testimony seemed a pointed demonstration of two teams of lawyers shamelessly attempting to manipulate an uneducated immigrant in order to win.
Next to testify was Susana Loera, a legal assistant who had been paid a salary by Alvarado in 2005 to work at the Mexican Consulate and who clashed with Alvarado, Guajardo and consulate staff. After leaving her job there, she denounced the consulate in early 2006 for giving bad legal advice—recommending that Mexican nationals accused of crimes flee the country, for example—and failing to help Mexican women who complained of being abused and raped by Mexican men.
Now a teacher with the Dallas Independent School District, Loera testified in Priddy's court that during her conflicts with the consulate, she'd received late-night calls from people who threatened to kill her and that as soon as she appeared on Garcia's witness list in the fee dispute, the calls began again. She accused Guajardo of being behind them. "I began receiving phone calls from restricted phone numbers calling me all kinds of obscene names at all hours of the night," she testified. "They said it would be in my best interest not to show up for my family's sake."
Loera didn't provide phone records to corroborate her accusations of death threats, and Guajardo openly laughed in court at her claims.
The most explosive moments in the litigation were reserved for the April hearing after Jenevein called Jorge Dagoberto Luna to testify against Garcia, who had hired him to annul Puente's 1990 Mexican marriage. The problem? Luna was not a Mexican attorney. Jenevein, displaying the affidavit Garcia's office had Luna sign during the wrongful death lawsuit, asked "If this affidavit says you have been practicing law since 2000, would that be true or false?"
"False," Luna said.
"Mr. Luna, if this affidavit says that marriage and annulments is the primary area of your practice in Nuevo Leon, would that be true or would that be false?"
Jenevein sought to prove that Garcia had defrauded the court in 2007 by preparing a false affidavit that suggested Puente's annulment was being processed when it had actually been dismissed by a Mexican court. Luna—in answer to Jenevein's questions—said Garcia gave him the document in English, which he is unable to read, and he signed it on the assurance from Garcia that it was for his office's use only. "If I'd known that document was going to be presented in a court of the United States I never would have signed it."
Friedman says the attempt to prove fraud was merely a distraction to "muddy the waters." Jenevein, on the other hand, argues that evidence indicating that Garcia filed a false affidavit to prove Puente was Navarro's legal wife constituted fraud, and cuts against Puente's claim that she had the right to terminate her contract with Alvarado and Guajardo because they failed to adequately represent her when they properly advised her she had no standing to sue. Jenevein later directed Luna's attention to the events on March 28 and asked him to recall what happened.
"I was leaving the apartment that I rent to deposit 3,000 pesos that I had...A truck stopped violently in my way, a black, old van-style truck. Three men got out. The first one pushed me from the back. I fell forward. They started to hit me, kick me all over my body...It was very fast, like 15 seconds. One of them pulled out my cell phone and my wallet from my pants pocket, and in between blows they paused. And they said to me something I haven't forgotten and I don't think I'll forget for a very long time."
"What did they say to you?" Jenevein asked.
"This is just a little taste of what can happen to you if you get into it with Domingo Garcia." Later, Luna would admit that he had no photos of his bruises and didn't seek medical help until several days later.
"He has the audacity to accuse a member of the Texas Bar of sending thugs to his neighborhood to beat him up, no witnesses, no photos, no bruises, no doctor, no police report," Friedman said in court. "I don't believe him."
But Luna wasn't finished. Jenevein also asked him if "anything happened in this court today to make you believe that the men who beat you up on March 28 were sent by Domingo Garcia?"