Trial in fatal racing incident ends with plea deal

EDINBURG — Before the second day of an emotional trial involving a fatal car crash, the man long-believed responsible for the death of one and the near-death of another decided not to leave his fate in the hands of 12 jurors.

As part of a plea deal, Ciro Manuel Rodriguez Treviño pleaded guilty to charges of highway racing causing bodily injury and highway racing causing death. This appeared to be among the rare occasions Treviño, 28, accepted responsibility for his role in the January 2016 crash that killed Marcelo Flores, 20, and left Angel Cordero “Cordy” Garcia, 25, severely injured.

According to the prosecution, the crash occurred on the evening of Jan. 5, 2016, because Treviño and his friend, Rene Raul Ramirez III, 23, were racing “at speeds totaling 124 mph” on 10th Street in McAllen. This ended with Treviño’s Corvette, with Flores in the passenger seat, crashing into Garcia’s Jeep.

Ramirez will be tried separately at a later date.

During the previous day’s testimony, assistant district attorney Vance Gonzales painted Treviño as a young man who “lives a life of privilege” as the son of well-known attorney Gregorio “Greg” Treviño. The younger Treviño purchased a new sports car just days before the accident, according to Gonzales.

Treviño was well-composed during his two days in court, showing little emotion even while Flores’ twin brother broke down on the witness stand and the jury was shown photos of the mangled vehicles. These included a graphic photo of Flores’ dead body still in the passenger seat.

“This is not an easy case for the court … for obvious reasons,” District Judge Noe Gonzalez said to Treviño upon accepting the guilty plea. “Your father is a lawyer and practices in this county. … I have four sons of my own.”

Treviño’s father had initially wanted to represent his son but was ultimately disqualified days before the trial. He remained outside the courtroom for most of the trial, talking to his son and his son’s attorney in the hallway during breaks.

It wasn’t until his son took the stand that the elder Treviño sat in the gallery.

“I’ve had trouble sleeping thinking about this case,” Gonzalez continued before remarking about the defendant expecting a child of his own — this adding to a father-son theme that dotted the judge’s sentiments. “I see a young man in a wheelchair unable to care for himself. I saw yesterday a young man talking about his twin brother, and then I see you — a son about to have a child. All these lives have been changed completely …”

Gonzalez then posed a question before the courtroom — this in the month before Treviño returns to the courtroom for his sentencing hearing on Oct. 10.

“Do you think it would be harder to see my son in a wheelchair or see my son in prison?” the judge said of a conversation he recalled between him and a friend, of which neither had an answer.

It was this question that elicited tears from the younger Treviño and Garcia’s father, who sat next to his only son — now in a wheelchair from injuries sustained in the accident.

“I know that maybe you’ve cried before, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen you cry,” Gonzalez said to the defendant, who has appeared before him on multiple occasions in the run-up to the trial.

As part of the plea deal, Treviño faces between two and six years in prison. The second-degree felony charges each originally carried a minimum sentence of two and a maximum of 20 years and a $10,000 fine.

In addition, Treviño waived his right to community supervision, also known as probation; his right to deferred adjudication; and cannot ask the judge to receive credit for time spent on the alternative to an incarceration program while he has been out on bond.

Gonzalez said he will use the prosecution’s investigation report to determine the sentence, in addition to any evidence and witness testimony presented to the jury during the brief trial.

He warned Treviño from “living it up” during his last four weeks as a free man, telling him he would be taken into custody if he breaks the law, uses drugs or alcohol, or violates the conditions of his alternative to incarceration program.

One reason why Treviño will wait nearly a month to be sentenced, Gonzalez said, is because he is in the process of preparing for the Monica Patterson trial, which is set to begin in mid-September.

“We will have a lot to talk about on the 10th of October,” Gonzalez told Treviño. “I’m going to ask that you take that time to think about what you’re going to share with the court. … You will not have a jury to play to. You’re going to have one man, an elected district judge who’s been on the bench for 22 years, and I’ve heard it all. … But it never ceases to amaze me how pompous or cocky or flippant somebody can be.”

Treviño declined to comment as he left the courtroom, saying that all he wanted to do was go home.

Garcia and his family also declined to comment until after the sentencing hearing.