A Democrat prosecutor in Texas, who is facing suspension, has submitted her resignation after nearly two years of bungled prosecutions and for allegedly mishandling a case against the suspect in one of America’s biggest mass shootings on record. El Paso County District Attorney Yvonne Rosales‘ resignation takes effect just one day before a judge was set to decide whether she should be thrown out of office pending a trial.
The process of giving Rosales the boot was first initiated on Aug. 24 by El Paso criminal defense attorney Omar Carmona, who filed a petition to remove the Democratic DA for incompetency and alleged official misconduct.
The petition accused Rosales of failure to charge cases in a timely manner; significant decreases in case filings; mishandling of the Gabaldon murder case; mishandling and stalling of the 2019 El Paso Walmart massacre case; and bad faith representations to the the court.
“Rosales’ incompetency is demonstrated by both her conduct AND the conduct of her subordinates,” said the petition.
Carmona suggested it’d be prudent for Rosales to resign rather than go to trial, saying, “I believe that she will see the writing on the wall.”
On Nov. 21, Lewis set a hearing for Dec. 15 to ascertain whether Rosales should be suspended ahead of a trial scheduled for March 13, which in turn would determine whether she should be fully removed from office.
On Tuesday, the Democratic DA threw in the towel. Her resignation will go into effect on Dec. 14.
In her resignation letter to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Rosales wrote that her first assistant Salah George Al-Hanna will assume all duties and responsibilities as acting DA.
Rosales wrote, “It has been an honor and a pleasure serving as the District Attorney of El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson Counties, so it is with a heavy heart that I tender my letter of resignation.”
The El Paso Times indicated that it now falls on Abbott to appoint a replacement for Rosales to serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in 2024.
According to El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal, Rosales technically retains her duties and powers and remains in office as a “holdover” office holder until the governor appoints her successor.
Since taking office on Jan. 1, 2021, Rosales, formerly a family law attorney, has been embroiled in a series of scandals. While her career has evidently been affected, it is possible that the credibility of her office and the safety of El Paso’s residents have also been impacted.
Last December, the Texas Ethics Commission determined that Rosales had violated state law when her office allegedly misused thousands of dollars of public money on self-promotion.
The El Paso County Auditor’s Office showed that the Democratic DA had used forfeiture funds to buy T-shirts and badges with her name and title on them, reported the El Paso Times. Rosales suggested that the auditor’s office, in holding her to account, was discriminating on the basis of gender.
Rosales also accused the judge overseeing the Walmart massacre case, state District Judge Sam Medrano, of discriminating against her on the basis of her sex.
In 2019, Patrick Crusius allegedly murdered 23 people in an El Paso Walmart. Crusius was charged with 90 federal crimes, 45 of which were hate crimes. That became Rosales’ case to lose.
According to the Texas Tribune, Roger Rodriguez, a municipal judge working with Rosales, allegedly masqueraded as the relative of Walmart shooting victim Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, using his widow’s cellphone to send details about the case to the press and to condemn Medrano, thereby violating the terms of a July court gag order.
An attorney for the family indicated that Rodriguez said that he had been “acting on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office” and that the family should not “betray” him because he had “snipers everywhere.”
Notwithstanding her resignation, Rosales must still appear before Medrano on Wednesday for a hearing on whether her office was the source of the email to the news media violating the gag order.
Rosales has reportedly tried and repeatedly failed to shut down the gag order investigation.
Perhaps more significantly, nearly a thousand potential criminals accused of misdemeanors and felonies went free because Rosales’ office routinely failed to file charges on time.
According to El Paso Matters, the El Paso Public Defender’s Office requested 390 dismissals between Aug.15 and Aug. 18 and had nearly 370 approved because Rosales and her team reportedly dragged their feet.
Among that spate of dismissals, there were 15 first-degree felonies, 33 second-degree felonies, and 65 third-degree felonies.
Between 2018 and 2020, 14 people were released under the provision prohibiting the jailing of defendants past 30 to 90 days if the state isn’t ready for trial. In Rosales’ first year in office, that number skyrocketed to 183.
The Wall Street Journal noted that in addition to case dismissals, the failure of Rosales and her office to file indictments also resulted in the loss of bond provisions intended to keep victims safe, such as warning them of their accused aggressors’ release.
One of the suspected felons who got off on account of Rosales’ alleged incompetence was Ivan Gabaldon, a man accused of stabbing a 62-year-old to death.
Rosales’ senior division chief Curtis Cox demanded the death penalty against Gabaldon just moments after stating he would not object to releasing the accused murderer on a personal recognizance bond. This alleged ploy to delay the trial backfired. Gabaldon was cut loose.
Local judges and attorneys reportedly began to doubt whether the Democratic DA could handle her most basic responsibilities as the region’s top prosecutor.
Despite her apparent ineptitude, Rosales told KFOX-14, “Justice will be served.”
Here is the resignation letter that Rosales would ultimately serve to Abbott: