Jurors come to split decision in San Juan officers’ drug trial

McALLEN — Jurors in the federal trial against two San Juan police officers came to a split decision during its sixth day Monday, according to court records.

Jurors found Richard Leon Castillo guilty of making a false statement to federal agents, but they found his fellow officer Salvador Hernandez not guilty of a drug trafficking charge. Court records show they also didn’t find enough evidence to find them guilty of a drug conspiracy.

Castillo, 26, and Hernandez, 30, are scheduled back in court in March related to the mistrial that resulted when the jury could not come to a decision on the drug conspiracy charge, court records show.

The officers were on trial as a result of allegations from federal prosecutors that the two conspired to steal cocaine from a recent arrest, and then distribute the illicit drugs.

Castillo has been terminated due to his conviction. He had been employed with the police department for more than three years and had been placed on unpaid suspension in early April, which came after he and Hernandez were named in a federal drug indictment.

Hernandez, who also has three years service with the police department and was suspended in May — will remain on unpaid leave. His suspension came after he was accused of possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, as well as conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.

The charges stem from an August 2016 traffic accident involving a vehicle that had been abandoned in an orchard, according to the criminal complaint.

Hernandez responded to the crash at about 7 a.m. Aug. 27, 2016, near Moore and Stewart Roads, along with several Border Patrol agents, the complaint states.

“A search of the vehicle located two duffel bags containing bundles wrapped in black and gray tape,” the complaint states.

A K-9 officer was used to determine possible narcotics located within the discovered bundles, the complaint reads.

“Shortly thereafter the two duffel bags containing the tape-wrapped bundles were placed in Hernandez’s marked patrol unit,” the records show. “Approximately an hour and a half later, Hernandez delivered the two duffel bags to the San Juan Police Department.”

When the duffel bags were counted officers reported 37 bundles, the complaint reads.

The next morning agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration visited the police station to retrieve the 37 bundles, but a thorough investigation revealed that the duffel bags retrieved from the vehicle and moved by Hernandez, contained 40 bundles of cocaine at the time Hernandez took possession of the bags, according to the complaint.

Federal agents interviewed Hernandez where he admitted to retrieving the bags and taking them to the station, but that he was not aware of anyone counting the bundles, the criminal complaint states.

On Tuesday, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez released a statement related to the jurors’ decision, saying the department will be cooperating with federal authorities as well as requesting copies of the testimony given during the trial.

“The San Juan Police Department will request the transcripts of the testimony given during the court proceedings to evaluate how the case was presented by the arresting agencies,” the statement reads. “The city and police department do not take these charges lightly and we will continue to cooperate with federal authorities as needed. The San Juan Police Department prides itself on integrity and professionalism of its police officers and the police department remains committed to serving the community with the highest standards expected of all law enforcement personnel.”