What is a Pretrial Hearing?
What Will Ex-Mayor Gurule-Giron Face at Her Pretrial Hearing and What Might Happen?
The preliminary hearing in the criminal case against former Las Vegas Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron is scheduled for April 6. In addition to this hearing, there may be several pretrial hearings, depending on the legal motions filed by prosecutors and her attorneys. Gurule-Giron faces six felony charges related to abuse of power, bid-rigging, and giving and receiving bribes while mayor.
Marvin Salazar, described as Gurule-Giron’s boyfriend, also has two felony charges pending, according to the Las Vegas Optic. According to the prosecution, he benefited from former Mayor Giron’s actions, in his capacity as the owner of Gemini Construction. Gurule-Giron appeared in her case on January 6 at an arraignment, where she pled not guilty to all charges. She resigned from her position as mayor two days later.
What Charges Does the Ex-Mayor Face and What Court Process Has She Had So Far?
Some of the charges Gurule-Giron faces are:
- Engaging in an official act for personal financial gain
- Soliciting or receiving an illegal kickback
- Demanding or accepting a bribe by a public officer or employee
Gurule-Giron is accused of giving Salazar information on other companies making bids and the amounts of the sealed bid. In return, she allegedly received in-kind kickbacks and was, in effect, a business partner and Gemini funder.
At her arraignment, she was advised of the charges against her, maximum penalties, constitutional rights. She entered a denial of the allegations, and conditions of her release were set.
Her next step in the process is a preliminary hearing, a critical stage in the criminal justice process. At issue is whether there’s sufficient evidence to move on to the next stage of the trial. The charges will be dismissed if the judge feels there’s not enough proof to show there’s probable cause to believe that she committed felony crime(s).
If the judge finds probable cause, the case might continue forward to at least one pretrial hearing in the future. Possible dispositions include dismissal, a plea agreement, or trial.
What is a Pretrial Hearing?
A pretrial hearing is a hearing where the parties may address issues before trial, such as:
- The status of the case
- Issues of discovery (the release of information and evidence by the prosecution)
- Whether or not the parties intend to proceed to trial
- Modification of conditions of release
- Scheduling the case for trial
- Pretrial motions
- Any other issues which may need the attention of the judge
Prosecutors and defense attorneys may file pretrial motions (requests that a judge makes decisions concerning the case before trial). At pretrial motion hearings, the attorneys for both sides argue their positions and try to convince the judge not to agree with the other side. The judge may or may not decide the motion at the time.
These motions can make or break criminal charges by, as a practical matter, making it easier or more difficult for the prosecution. Some of the issues that can come up include:
- Motion to Dismiss: The judge should dismiss the case (or at least some of the charges) because of a lack of jurisdiction (under the law, the Court cannot decide the matter), lack of evidence, violation of court-imposed deadlines, or some other relevant issue.
- Exclusion of Physical Evidence: Evidence shouldn’t be used because it was obtained illegally or was beyond the scope of a search warrant
- Exclusion of Witness Testimony: A prosecution witness shouldn’t testify because of a conflict of interest, discovery violations, failure to appear for a pretrial interview, the witness is unreliable or not mentally competent
- Motion to Change Venue: Normally due to pretrial publicity, the defense seeks to have the case decided in another geographic area because potential, local jurors may be prejudiced against the defendant
- Motion for the Release of Evidence: The prosecution is withholding relevant evidence from the defendant, despite requests of it being released
- Motion for Statement of Facts: The judge should order the state to provide specificity regarding the charge(s) alleged
The rules of criminal procedure require that the parties produce evidence within a set timeline. The judge may also issue a Criminal Scheduling Order, which will set deadlines for discovery, interviews, motion filings, responses to motions, hearing dates, and other necessary deadlines.
The District Attorney is also required to make witnesses available for the defense to interview, which may only include police officers. Often officers won’t appear for interviews, or we may not have been able to schedule them. The discovery and interview issues would be reported to the judge at the hearing or through a pretrial motion.
The outcome of a pretrial hearing may weaken one side and strengthen the other, making it a good time for both sides to consider what might be a fair plea bargain agreement so the matter can be resolved before trial.
If you are facing criminal charges, as a former New Mexico prosecutor, I have the knowledge, insight, and confidence to help you navigate the pretrial process to put you in the best position possible. Although we never make promises, the outcome may be dismissed charges or a favorable plea bargain agreement that can allow you to get on with your life. You can reach out to my office today for an initial strategy session. Request yours today by calling (505) 587-8649. Or you can complete my convenient and secure contact form.