Inside former police chief Tim Vasquez’s final verdict
Hendrix disagreed with this assessment. The judge told Vasquez that he misrepresented the cost and quality of the Harris radio system to the city council.
“You wouldn’t have done otherwise because you were being paid (by Dailey and Wells, a Harris radio salesman),” Hendrix said.
In trial testimony, the prosecution argued that the cost of the Harris radio solution was higher than that of a Motorola upgrade. The prosecution focused its case on the $5.7 million radio purchase in 2015, not the original Harris radio purchase in 2007. During trial testimony in March, no one in the room No audience disputed Vasquez’s claim that a public safety committee set up in the city of San Angelo recommended Motorola in 2007, but was overruled by Dominquez who chose Harris.
Returning to Friday’s sentencing, Hendrix went further when discussing how he arrived at the 15.5-year prison sentence. He said he tried to calculate the amount of the loss for the city of San Angelo, but couldn’t because he didn’t know Dailey’s and Wells’ profit margins. He estimated that the 2015 facility profit was likely around $1.3 million. Ultimately, Hendrix said he would not order restitution from Vasquez to the city of San Angelo for this reason.
Vasquez detailed some of his accomplishments not just as police chief, but as a lifelong public servant. He was on the board that in 2015 saved the San Angelo Women’s Shelter, he said.
“I’m a giver, not a taker,” he pleaded.
“Please don’t leave me. Consider the five months I spent in solitary confinement. Give me a trial period. You can give me probation for the rest of my life,” Vasquez pleaded. “I can right my past wrongs better on the outside than on the inside.”
Vasquez was taken into custody and jailed after his March 24 sentencing. Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement at Terry County Jail for his own safety pending sentencing.
Vasquez concluded his plea for mercy in an ominous way. He said that as a former police officer, he feared for his own safety in federal prison.
US Attorney Jeffrey Haag was brief. He made two points for the judge to consider. He acknowledged that a long prison sentence would be painful for Vasquez’s parents and children. However, Haag said, Vasquez’s actions imposed “intense” pain and suffering on justice and our democracy. Public corruption was insidious for our country, he said. And, he added, there are differences between making mistakes and continued corruption.
Second, Haag argued that Vasquez’s actions harmed the city of San Angelo and the San Angelo Police Department. He said cynics in the public square can now accuse all members of the San Angelo municipal government civil service as corrupt. Accusations will be ubiquitous, he said. He praised the work he has done with the SAPD since arriving in the Northern District of Texas in 2002.
“West Texas’ best will suffer,” he said.
Haag concluded his arguments by asking Judge Hendrix to sentence Vasquez to 15 years in prison.
Charity Vasquez, the ex-wife of Tim Vasquez made the strongest plea for clemency. She pleaded for their daughters, telling the courtroom that she and her daughters “have all forgiven Tim for everything he did to us.”
Through it all, she said, “Tim’s heart is always in the right place. So please show mercy and give (our family) a chance,” she said. “His daughters don’t want their father to die in prison.”
Charity said the investigation that began in late 2015 until today with the trial and sentencing has been heartbreaking.
“Tim has a good heart. He made it his mission to keep this community (of San Angelo) safe. He is not a danger to society and that was his only offense,” Charity continued.
Charity argued that her ex-husband is an only child and the only person who can take care of his sick parents. She added that her daughters are entering a time in their lives where they will need their father for important life events. Tim’s youngest will be an officer on the drill team this year, she said.
Referring to the Old Testament concept of jubilee, she said, “We are in a jubilee year and I have declared it to Tim. I pray for your mercy on this man’s life.
Vasquez’s father, Armando Vasquez, later testified. He said when his son expressed his interest in running for police chief, he knew his son would face tough challenges. As a former SAPD officer himself, Armando noted that his son held his officers to account.
“In the past we didn’t have that,” he said.
He was proud that his son had achieved accreditation from the Texas Police Chief Association department.
“Other cities have taken inspiration from SAPD under Tim’s leadership,” he said.
Armando continued, “He was the first Hispanic leader and was re-elected twice, serving 12 years. No one would have thought that,” he said.
“I’m 76 and not in good health,” Armando continued. He blamed his service in the U.S. Air Force in theater in Vietnam for exposure to Agent Orange.
Armando recounted a recent letter he received that was sent by his son when his son was in Terry County Jail.
“Pops, stay healthy. I want you there when I get home,” Tim wrote to his dad from prison.
Armando met his son in the courtroom that day. “I’m afraid I’m not alive.”
“My son has always been there for me and his mother and we have always been there for him,” he concluded.
Judge Hendrix empathized with Tim’s father. “The family is always the victim in these situations.” He briefly described federal prison and concluded that “a jury of his peers found him guilty.”
Two other character witnesses appeared in court, Vasquez’s girlfriend Tina Stillwell and family friend Roy Book. Vasquez addressed the judge following his character witnesses, then USA Haag spoke, and the courtroom froze as the judge began to speak.
Hendrix didn’t mince words. He told Vasquez it all started with a charity event in May 2015 where he said Vasquez was skimming cash on top of the takings.
“This resulted in an investigation into your bank accounts,” the judge said. “We discovered that you received bribes, 20 in all, over a decade. You did not disclose it to the City despite your legal, ethical and moral obligation to do so.
Hendrix accused Vasquez of lying in court when he took the stand in his own defense. He said Vasquez lied about the connection between his band’s performance and the money he received (Vasquez argued it wasn’t a bribe) and said that Vasquez had lied about the cost of tickets to the two Dallas Cowboys games he attended in the L3 Harris suites.
“Because of that (taking the money) you twisted that (radio) deal in the city council. Each of them testified that they otherwise would not have supported the deal had they known (of your relationship with the seller),” the judge said.
“The evidence shows this is not a one-time deal. It was over and over again,” the judge said, noting that the timeline of the bribes spanned a decade. Ultimately, you were the citizen’s guardian and you violated their trust and brought discredit on yourself and the San Angelo Police Department.
Hendrix was offended by Vasquez’s appeal for clemency. He said that alleging extraordinary circumstances during his testimony and doing so despite serving 3.5 months in solitary confinement before Friday’s sentencing proved to the judge that Vasquez had too little contrition.
” You do not understand. You don’t understand the harm you have done to the San Angelo Police Department,” the judge said.
He said his actions showed disrespect for the law he was sworn to uphold.
“Asking for credit for your life of law enforcement service fits the Yiddish definition of chutzpah,” he said.
“This corruption has gone on for too long. Yet you had the support of your family and the community you served, as well as a badge. That’s a lot of trust people had in you. If I sentenced you within the guidelines (the suggested sentencing range), I would have no respect for the law. I am obligated to protect citizens from those who abuse the public trust. And your refusal to grapple with the gravity of what you have done leads me to sentence you to a sentence above the guidelines,” the judge said.
With that, he sentenced Vasquez to 15.5 years in federal prison, six months over the maximum range of federal sentencing guidelines. That 15.5 years includes 120 months for the bribery charge and 186 months for each of the three Honest Services mail fraud charges. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently. Additionally, the judge ordered Vasquez to pay a $35,000 fine.
The judge did not seize or withdraw Vasquez’s pension of $4,000 a month that the city of San Angelo will pay him for the rest of his life. At the end of his prison term, Vasquez was sentenced to one year of probation.
Vasquez turns 52 this year. When he has served 85% of his sentence, as is required for federal prison sentences, or 13.2 years, he will be 65 years old.