Predicting An Acquittal (7/08/98)
Hilaria Ruiz is currently on trial in Tarrant County for a Class B misdemeanor. Not the typical defendant, Ruiz is employed as assistant principal at Sagamore Hill Elementary School and, I'm guessing, does not have a criminal record. I do know that she was a high school drop out who returned to college and earned two degrees while working full time and raising three children.

What makes the trial interesting is that Ms. Ruiz is not accused of committing a crime but instead is accused of doing nothing. Unfortunately for her, the failure to act in some circumstances can be a criminal offense.

The statute reads: "A person commits an offense if the person has cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect and knowingly fails to report [the information to law enforcement]". Texas Family Code §261.109.

I'm going out on a limb: she will be acquitted.

The case arises from incidents that took place in the classroom of first grade teacher Modesto Rodriquez which subsequently led to his conviction and a 20 year prison sentence for child sexual abuse. Prosecutors claim that Ruiz was told by a mother of one of Rodriquez victims of the abuse and that Ruiz failed to report it in violation of state law.

I took notice of this misdemeanor case when I saw that Tarrant County Assistant D.A. David Montague was the prosecuting attorney. Montague has been with the D.A.'s office for years and is an excellent felony prosecutor. Consequently, it is a bit odd that he ends up being the lead attorney on  a Class B misdemeanor, the lowest level criminal offense that the D.A.'s office has the responsibility for handling.

Maybe Montague's presence is some indication of how the State feels about its case.

But even with Montague at the helm, the case is not one that is easily won.

Here's why:

I may be wrong, but this looks like a "not guilty" coming down the tracks.

Barry Green is the District Attorney for the 271st Judicial District.

Updates since the above column was written:
Summary of Second Day of Trial (7/8/98)
Even a Blind Hog Finds an Acorn (7/9/98)

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