EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An El Paso County District Court judge agreed to a dismissal of a case including a death penalty charge against a Juarez man accused of murdering a 63-year-old man during an alleged paid sexual encounter.
Judge Alyssa Perez called the District Attorney’s decision to seek the death penalty against Ivan Gabaldon, 20, an “Unjustifiable penalty” before agreeing with his attorneys to dismiss the case based on claims prosecutors showed “vindictive actions” against their client.
“I simply find the state’s reasoning and explanations of forced decision to reindict and ultimately seek the death penalty is not credible,” Perez said during Tuesday meeting. “I am very concerned and have been concerned for awhile because of the lack of diligence that the state of Texas has the manner in which they’ve been handling, you all have been handling these cases.”
Ivan Gabaldon was accused of stabbing Juan Garcia Flores, 63, to death after the two engaged in a paid sexual encounter in February. Gabaldon’s attorneys say he was defending himself when Garcia allegedly forced Gabaldon to do acts he did not consent to while holding a knife.
Gabaldon was originally indicted on a felony murder charge but earlier this month, his charge was elevated to capital murder and the DA’s office was pursuing the death penalty for the 20-year-old.
The DA’s office had sought more time to review the case after prosecutor Curtis Cox admitted to the 210th court that he had not entirely reviewed the case weeks before the scheduled jury trial. Cox said the DA’s office had not received back results from forensics tests or located witnesses for the trial.
Perez said she had never seen the DA’s office “disregard some of the most serious cases.”
“It does not in many ways feel like justice because at the end of the day we are dealing with certain circumstances and allegations that are very serious,” she said. “There are families of victims that are not being well served when cases within the DA’s office can be disregarded.”
KTSM 9 News has reached out to District Attorney Yvonne Rosales and her office numerous times for comment on several stories. The DA’s Office has not answered questions or issued a statement for a story since Nov. 19.
Defense attorney calls on DA prosecutor’s removal
Gabaldon’s attorneys Denise Butterworth and Omar Carmona are calling on District Attorney Yvonne Rosales to remove Cox from his position. And, they are calling on Rosales to address concerns risen from the case.
“If Ms. Rosales is really concerned about the way justice is dispensed with in El Paso County, ok, after what she saw, the threats that were made by Mr. Cox, if she’s not OK with that, then she needs to address it and have Mr. Cox’s immediate resignation,” Carmona said.
The two were unable to make comments to the press during the trial after a gag order was placed on all individuals involved in the case. But now, they’re breaking their silence and hope the community is paying attention to today’s decision.
“We had done our due diligence preparing for trial because our client was sitting in jail,” Butterworth said. “And, as the case progressed, and we got closer to the trial setting, it was very apparent that the state was not ready for trial. That nobody had worked it out.
“Thank God, the system is in place, that the law allowed the judge to step in and right the wrong,” she said. “We believe and argue that the DA’s office was abusing its power by reindicting this case and seeking the death penalty on the facts of our case and who our client was in order to buy more time because they weren’t ready.”
LINKS BELOW ARE TO PREVIOUS KTSM 9 COVERAGE OF THE DA’S OFFICE