Ex-Edinburg city manager disputes assault narrative

EDINBURG — The former city manager here recently accused of assaulting his fiance faced a similar accusation about seven years ago while working for the city of Pharr, but said the case has since been expunged.

The documents surrounding Juan Guerra’s first assault accusation involving his ex-wife, Lucy Castanon, and his former sister-in-law, Monica Castanon, should not exist anymore, his attorney Reynaldo Merino said Tuesday.

“That’s the whole reason you do any expunction, is to purge (it)… so it’s never brought up again,” Merino said.

The Monitor, however, obtained a copy of the case surrounding the Sept. 14, 2012, incident in which Guerra was listed as a suspect, but never arrested or charged with a crime.

“Under the law, once a matter has been expunged, it can not be further disseminated. It’s the reason we do expunctions,” Merino said, citing Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. “Whoever … gave it to you, that’s the kind of information that would not be allowed, and it’s a crime.”

The original police reports describing the incident are public records. Therefore, anyone in possession of those original reports is free to publish them under both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. Expungement also does not mean an incident never happened.

On Monday, former Edinburg Legislative Affairs Liaison Miriam Cepeda accused Guerra of being emotionally and physically abusive following reports of a December 2019 domestic dispute between the pair. She alleged Guerra pushed her to the floor and caused her to bang her face against furniture. She also claimed Guerra asked her to produce a false statement to police, essentially exonerating him.

“There were already rumors of him being physically abusive,” Cepeda said about Guerra on Monday.

Guerra denied any wrongdoing and accused Cepeda of extorting him in order to get a portion of a large severance package he received when he left Edinburg in November.

He once again defended himself in a news release Tuesday, announcing a news conference Wednesday to address “serious false allegations” that “undermine” his reputation.

“I will present a timeline of factual events and the list of demands Ms. Cepeda wanted from me, all of which the Edinburg Police Department have,” Guerra wrote. “I plan on answering any questions that my attorney will allow.”

Guerra also told The Monitor he did not have a history of aggression, as Cepeda alleged.

“There’s no history (of abuse) — that’s why it got expunged,” he said in reference to his first assault accusation in 2012. “Someone might be trying to use it to have a false narrative of me.”

Pharr police documented several narratives of the first alleged incident, including one from officer Luis Juarez, who responded to a call for help at a home in the 1300 block of West Park Avenue at about 1:15 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2012.

According to his report, Guerra and his then-wife, Lucy, had just arrived from a night of drinking when a physical fight between them allegedly broke out.

“I learned that Mr. Guerra became very irate and began to push Lucy several times, striking her on her chest area and punched her repeatedly in the face with a closed fist, causing her to fall to the living room floor,” Juarez wrote in his report.

Moments later, Guerra’s sister-in-law, who had been babysitting the couple’s children, intervened and became involved in the alleged physical altercation. The then 18-year-old told police Guerra tried to punch her and pushed her down at least twice before she called for help.

Guerra, who was serving as the city’s finance director at the time, told police “he never placed his hands on Lucy or his sister in law,” the report stated.

Officer Juarez, however, noticed “redness to Lucy’s face where she claimed Mr. Guerra punched her” and redness to the younger sister’s upper chest. He also noted Guerra and his wife had “a strong odor of alcohol” emitting from their breath and indicated Guerra also displayed “red bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an unsteady balance.”

“I then detained Mr. Guerra for the safety of others and myself,” Juarez wrote.

But Guerra’s then-wife approached the officer.

“(She) began to change her story, stating that Mr. Guerra did not punch her or push her and that it was a misunderstanding and she did not want him arrested,” Juarez wrote.

So the police officer asked Guerra where he could stay to “prevent any further violence” and gave him a “courtesy transport” to his sister’s house in McAllen.

The following afternoon, police followed up with the two sisters.

Guerra’s sister-in-law told police “she was doing much better,” but also expressed she was “worried for her” sister and “afraid of her brother-in-law’s temper.” However, she also told police she did “not know their marriage life that well.”

Guerra’s wife told police she and Guerra had talked that morning and did not remember much of what had transpired hours earlier. They simply had “too much to drink.”

Police summed it up as such: “Lucy stated that nothing like this had ever happened before, so both were surprised. (She) claims that everything is fine, that there was not going to be any more problems from them.”

“There’s really nothing else to that,” Guerra said Tuesday. “If something had happened, it would not have been expunged.”