POSTED: Monday, August 22, 2011 - 4:49pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 10:25am
EL PASO - The District Attorney is responding to some harsh criticism from the lawyers representing Pastor Tom Brown.
Brown is the pastor and founder of the Word of Life Church, based in El Paso.
Theresa Caballero and Steward Leeds held a news conference Saturday and claimed that Jaime Esparza has launched a "politically motivated" investigation into Brown and his recall effort.
Brown is leading an effort to recall Mayor John Cook and city representatives Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega. It all stems from their decision to restore health benefits to gay and domestic partners of city employees, after voters took the benefits away.
"It is not about the rights of gay couples,” Caballero said about the recall. “It is about voters speaking and city council undoing the voter's voice."
Brown's lawyers now claim Esparza has launched a politically motivated investigation into their client and the recall effort.
"District Attorney Jaime Esparza is starting another one of his, in a long line, of political prosecutions," said Leeds.
Leeds also claimed Esparza is a political ally of Cook, Byrd and Ortega.
"He needs them and they need him to save their jobs from this recall. He's stepping right up to the plate for them."
During Saturday's news conference, Caballero even went as far as to say this about Esparza: "We're going to take a legal and political truncheon to the District Attorney's head and break his knees with it. This is an outrage," she said.
But Esparza told NewsChannel 9 Monday that his investigation is not driven by politics or political affiliations, but rather a letter he received.
"The investigation regarding Pastor Brown is really related to a referral from the Texas Attorney General's office," said Esparza.
He said it's a referral regarding a possible election violation that Brown may have committed.
Esparza showed us a section of the Texas election code which states:
A corporation or labor organization may not make a political contribution or political expenditure in connection with a recall election, including the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election.
Esparza said a church can be considered a corporation.
"A corporation can be any entity. It could be a church it or it could be a business," said Esparza.
A violation of the Texas election code is a third degree felony.
Caballero and Leeds insist that their client has not broken any laws.
Meantime, Brown and his supporters continue to gather signatures on the recall petition.
But there is also plenty of opposition. On Sunday, hundreds of people held a rally against the recall effort at Memorial Park.