2009-02-18 / Front Page

Andrea Espinosa sues Judge Barnhart, Police Chief Zamora & City of Raymondville in sexual harassment case

NEW TEAM IN D.A.'S OFFICE Newly elected County & District Attorney Bernard Ammerman has completed hiring the staff that will help him prosecute crime in Willacy County during the coming years. Pictured, left to right, Scott V. Greenbaum, first asst. county & district attorney; Gloria Puente, paralegal; Bernard W. Ammerman, County & District Attorney; Marisela Salazar, Victim Assistance Coordinator and Oscar Rivera, Jr., chief investigator. Ammerman, Greenbaum and Rivera, all previously worked in the Cameron County district attorney's office and all are experienced. NEW TEAM IN D.A.'S OFFICE Newly elected County & District Attorney Bernard Ammerman has completed hiring the staff that will help him prosecute crime in Willacy County during the coming years. Pictured, left to right, Scott V. Greenbaum, first asst. county & district attorney; Gloria Puente, paralegal; Bernard W. Ammerman, County & District Attorney; Marisela Salazar, Victim Assistance Coordinator and Oscar Rivera, Jr., chief investigator. Ammerman, Greenbaum and Rivera, all previously worked in the Cameron County district attorney's office and all are experienced. An issue that doesn't go away is the claim by Andrea Sias Espinosa that she was sexually harassed and abused by Willacy County Judge Eliseo "Cheyo" Barnhart before he was elected and while he was a justice of the peace.

Barnhart was never actually charged with the sexual offense due to the delay by Mrs. Espinosa in reporting the matter to the authorities. Barnhart, however was convicted by a Kingsville district court jury of two counts of perjury regarding testimony he gave in the incident. He was removed from office while his case is on appeal.

Joining Mrs. Espinosa are plaintiffs Rene Espinosa, her husbands, Gloria Garcia and Richard Garcia, her aunt and uncle.

Mrs. Espinosa claims in her lawsuit that she was working for Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Richard Solis on February 3, 2006 and that she forgot her purse in his office.

When she could not get in touch with Judge Solis she called Justice of the Peace Barnhart who agreed to open the office so that she could retreive her purse.

Once inside the office Barnhart made crude propositions to her, put his hands inside her blouse and molested her, Espinosa claims. Despite her pleas for him to stop the defendant continued to try to kiss her and exposed himself to her, she says.

Espinosa claims she tried to file complaints against Barnhart with the Raymondville Police Dept. several times but it was not until March 21, 2006 that she was allowed to make a statement.

Later Mrs. Espinosa, her husband and her aunt, Gloria Garcia were charged with extortion, theft and conspiracy were indicted and by a grand jury. Espinosa blames Chief Zamora and others in the police dept. for causing the indictments which were later dismissed on a technicality, by D. A. Juan Guerra.

A search warrant was issued on Nov . 8 , 2006 and the home of Mrs. Espinosa and her husband were searched, according to her complaint.

The plaintiffs believe that defendant Barnhart gave false testimony to the grand jury which resulted in their arrests, false imprisonment, infliction of bodily injury-assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, criminal malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and loss of due process.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages from the case which was filed by Rodriguez, Tovar & Lopez, L.L.P. of McAllen on February 12, 2008.

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