Today, an HSN representative attended the trial in New York.
What Happened Today:
** Two witnesses testified: DEA Agent Sandalio Gonzalez continued from yesterday & collaborating witness, former extradited police officer, Geovani Rodriguez
Key Details that Surfaced:
** It is believed that the juror that reported a security incident on Tuesday, may have resigned and did not attend the trial today. The public was not informed.
** Only parts of Tony’s interrogation video has been admitted as evidence and made public. Now, the defense attempts to admit the full or more parts of the Tony’s 73-min interrogation.
** Honduran Congressman Juan Carlos Valenzuela’s role in working with Tony was mentioned again.
** The DEA was unable to secure key evidence (phone taps, bank information, etc) for trial because of their lack of jurisdiction to request such information in Honduras but also lack of cooperation by Honduran authorities.
** 8 weapons licenses seized from Tony upon arrest include some in the name of Amado Antonio Fernandez Orellana, who may have been named by “El Rojo” and Ardon in their testimonies as “Don Amado” and a man that worked with El Chapo Guzman. Its unclear if its the same Amado or not.
** Police officer Geovani testified that he gave protection, security and key information to “El Rojo” and Mauricio Hernandez drug shipments and worked with Tony Hernandez.
What Will Happen Tomorrow:
** Collaborating witness Geovani Rodriguez will continue testifying and its expected that potentially Devis Maradiaga Rivera, one of Los Cachiros will testify.
Setting the scene:
The courtroom is on the 11th floor inside the Southern District court. When you walk inside the large building, everyone has to pass through security. Laptops, Bluetooth headphones, cellphones and other electronic devices must be checked and left downstairs.
Inside the courtroom are four rows of benches on the left and right side with a small aisle in between. Chairs are also set up at the back wall for those that cannot fit on the benches.
Tony Hernandez and JOH’s family attended today – their mother, his two brothers, one niece and her partner, and another nephew. They are followed by at least one Honduran bodyguard dressed in civilian clothes.
** Every time the jury enters or leaves the courtroom, everyone must stand.
** At the beginning of today’s session, one juror entered with a piece of paper, spoke to the judge and then left and did not attend for the rest of the day. Its believed that he may be the juror that reported that individuals took photos of him in an intimidating manner and may have left his role for good. The public was not informed and all was discussed at a side bar between the lawyers and the judge.
Continuation of Testimony of DEA Special Agent Gonzalez:
** The prosecution showed a picture of Tony Hernandez and Congressman Juan Carlos Valenzuela and four other National party activists. This was to demonstrate to the jury that Tony Hernandez knows Juan Carlos Valenzuela.
** Testified that eight weapon licenses issued by the Honduran government were found on Tony Hernandez when he was arrested. Five of them were in Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado’s name, two registered to Amado Antonio Fernandez Orellana and one to current National Party Congressman from Comayagua, Gerardo Tulio Martinez Pineda. Some of the licenses had expired years ago.
TONY’S LAWYERS TRY TO PICK APART AGENT GONZALEZ’S TESTIMONY
** Tony Hernandez’s defense team presents a bag of evidence containing some of Tony’s belongings that were found on him when arrested. They spent a significant amount of time showing the receipts to the courtroom with the possible intention of “humanizing” Tony and giving the impression that Tony is not necessarily a wealthy individual. Some examples include showing and discussing:
o Tony’s flight boarding passes that demonstrate that he flew in the basic economy class (most inexpensive seats).
o A receipt from Target in Houston showed that Tony had purchased M&Ms and children’s Christmas clothing. The point of that was missed until the Prosecutor on redirect (when the Prosecution was able to question the witness after the defense) and asked Agent Gonzalez if drug traffickers eat M&Ms.
** By showing the receipts and credit cards found in Tony’s possession when arrested, the defense also tried to raise doubts as to the investigative capabilities and thoroughness of the DEA and US prosecutors. For example:
o The defense asked Agent Gonzalez if he had cross-checked the dates on the receipts with supposed dates of meetings with drug traffickers as per the testimonies of “El Rojo’ and Ardon.
o The defense asked Agent Gonzalez if he had requested bank records and phone records for the credit cards and phones found on Tony during his arrest. Gonzalez responded that they had not. Later on redirect (when questioned again by the Prosecution), Gonzalez explained that they requested some of the information from Honduran authorities but were not given the information or he was not aware if the US government had received the response. He also said that the DEA does not have the authority to request such information.
o In reference to the above point, the prosecutor also asked the agent the meaning of a “unilateral operation.” He answered that it's a DEA operation conducted when the host government is not notified in order to avoid compromising the investigation or the DEA believes that the government won’t cooperate.
** Testified that Tony Hernandez had $8,000 USD (all in $100s) in cash on him when arrested.
** Inside one of Tony’s suitcases was a small bag with the initials “JAH” engraved on it. The defense implied that this as evidence that Tony uses his initials JAH and not TH. Later the prosecutors would show a bank account internet login username (Tony78) to argue that indeed he called himself ‘Tony’.
PHOTOS AND INFORMATION ON TONY HERNANDEZ’S PHONES SEIZED BY US AUTHORITIES WHEN ARRESTED
** Tony had two phones on him when he was arrested. US authorities found.
** Agent Gonzalez confirmed that only messages or mentions of Mario Calix Hernandez were found on Tony Hernandez’s cell phones that were seized when he was arrested. There was no information about “El Rojo”, Ardon or other drug traffickers.
** There were pictures of weapons found on Tony’s phone when he was arrested. The defense asked Agent Gonzalez is the DEA or other investigative bodies had collected metadata from the pictures to determine when the pictures were taken and by whom. Gonzalez said that he was unaware if that had been done. The same question was asked about the picture of the kilogram of cocaine with TH stamped on it. No metadata was recovered either.
LINKING TONY TO ACTUAL PACKAGES OF COCAINE & HELICOPTERS USED TO TRANSPORT DRUGS
** The defense asked Agent Gonzalez if the DEA had ever done drug busts and found ‘TH’ cocaine. Gonzalez answered that he doesn’t know.
** The defense asked if Tony’s fingerprints were found on any ‘TH’ cocaine. Gonzalez answered no.
** Defense asked if there was any hard evidence (paperwork) showing that Tony owned a helicopter or flew a helicopter. The agent said no. Later the prosecutor would show a picture of Tony inside the cockpit of a helicopter with a pilot headset on and another of a helicopter with a woman (not identified) sitting in the pilot’s seat.
THE FEBRUARY 4, 2014 DENNY’S MEETING BETWEEN ‘CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE’ AND TONY HERNANDEZ
** The defense asked Agent Gonzalez if the DEA monitored, watched, or followed the source to the Denny’s meeting (discussed in more detail on Day Seven)? He responded no.
** Defense asked agent when the DEA received the video from the source. The agent responded that it was given to them one month later. The defense pushed this, asking why it was so long after words.
Testimony of Collaborating Witness, Ex-Police Officer Geovani Rodriguez:
** Geovani Rodriguez is a former Honduran police officer who helped protect “El Rojo’s” drug shipments (as per El Rojo’s testimony on Day 3 of the trial).
** He became a police officer in approximately 1991.
** He’s been in prison for 3 years. He surrendered in 2016. He plead guilty in August 2017 to conspiring to traffic drugs and then to more crimes later on. He now faces a minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison.
** In Honduras, he admitting to working with the following drug traffickers: Tony Hernandez, “El Rojo”, Victor Morales, Ruben Mejia, Hector Emilio Fernandez and Vladimir Fernandez.
** To support drug traffickers, Rodriguez gave them information, helped them pass or avoid check-points, and provided security and protection for shipments.
** Rodriguez was arrested in Honduras in 2009 for stealing drugs and was formally accused of abuse of authority and violation of his duties as a public servant. He lied under oath in Honduras and spent 18-20 months in jail. He had two lawyers, Juan Manuel Avila Meza and Oscar Ramirez, who paid off the judge and then released him. All charges were then dropped.
o Immediately after he was released, he returned to drug trafficking.
** In return for his collaboration with drug traffickers, Rodriguez was promised payments, protection, and promotions inside the police.
RELATIONSHIP WITH JUAN MANUEL AVILA MEZA, OSCAR RAMIREZ & MAURICIO HERNANDEZ
** Rodriguez worked to traffic drugs with Oscar Ramirez starting in approximately 2007/2008. Oscar Ramirez would accompany Rodriguez to provide protection and security for drug shipments.
** Mauricio Hernandez spoke to Rodriguez about trafficking drugs in approximately 2010/2011. He asked Rodriguez to give him information about police anti-drug operations.
** At the time he started working with Mauricio Hernandez (~2011/2012), Rodriguez was the sub-director of the National Police. In this position, he had access to information about special operations related to drug trafficking and all national police operations
** Mauricio Hernandez told Rodriguez that he was working for Ardon (“Chande”) and Tony Hernandez. He told Rodriguez that Ardon gives money to Tony Hernandez to finance Juan Orlando Hernandez’s campaigns.
** Before Rodriguez surrendered in 2016 and after he had been accused, he met with Mauricio Hernandez in the parking lot of La Tribuna newspaper in Tegucigalpa.
o Mauricio Hernandez told him that he was sorry to hear about the accusations against him, that he couldn’t do anything, but told him to be careful about talking about Tony Hernandez and Juan Orlando Hernandez’s involvement in drug trafficking.
RELATIONSHIP WITH TONY HERNANDEZ, “EL ROJO”, ARDON AND OTHER DRUG TRAFFICKERS
** Rodriguez never met Tony Hernandez but he started working with him in approximately 2011/2012 through Mauricio Hernandez.
** Rodriguez was promoted after providing information to Mauricio Hernandez. He was told that Tony Hernandez had gotten him the promotion.
** Rodriguez testified that he had gone 10-15 times to a house owned by Tony Hernandez in the Modelo neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa between ~2011/2012.
o He went to the house to attend social gatherings and gatherings with “prostitutes”
o During his visits, he saw packages of $20 USD bills inside a bedroom closet wrapped in plastic. The package was approximately 1.5 feet wide by 3 feet long. He testified that he had seen these types of packages before when traffickers paid for drugs.
o The defense pushed Rodriguez on cross- examination to say that he was just told that the house was owned by Tony Hernandez but that he never saw Tony there and had never met him.
RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER TRAFFICKERS
** He started working with “El Rojo” in 2005 and met him in person. In total, Rodriguez testified to protecting approximately 15-25 drug shipments for “El Rojo”.
** “El Rojo” used dump trucks to transport drugs.
** Rodriguez saw and spoke to Mauricio Hernandez about his work with “El Rojo”. He was told by Mauricio Hernandez that “El Rojo” was protected by Tony Hernandez
Unresolved Procedural Issue: Defense Asks Judge to Allow Excluded Segments of Tony’s Interrogation Video to be Introduced as Evidence.
** At the end of the day, Tony’s defense team requests Judge Castel to allow that unseen parts of the video of Tony’s interrogation upon arrest be entered into evidence.
** The defense’s request comes at a controversial time in the trial. A significant amount of time is spent discussing whether the request has been made outside of the procedural moment allowed by law and how the case would proceed given that presenting new elements of the video would mean that Agent Gonzalez would have to go back on the stand and all questioning would have to happen again.
** Judge Castel expresses his concern that it would bias the jury to just show the parts of the video that were not introduced into evidence initially. The prosecutors argue that irrelevant parts were excluded. The defense argues that critical parts that show Tony’s state of mind and important context were left out.
** Judge Castel decided that he would allow both sides to submit by Sunday at noon their arguments and suggestions in writing as to why the unseen video segments should be introduced and how the court should procedurally proceed given the interruption in the flow of the trial that such request could have.