Donna sued in relation to candidate’s 2017 campaign event

The city of Donna has been sued in connection with a 2017 campaign event held at a city-owned property and hosted by a then-candidate for mayor.

G&G Closed Circuit Events LLC filed the lawsuit in federal court in mid-September. The company alleges that the city, former mayoral candidate Ernesto Lugo and campaign worker, Marissa Ozuna, violated the company’s exclusive license to broadcast a pay-per-view boxing match.

The complaint alleges the three defendants violated the company’s licensing rights when the fight was broadcast at Lugo’s campaign event, which was held at the Donna Main Square Park in mid-September 2017.

“The closed-circuit broadcast of the Event was not intended for the use of the general public. In Texas, the closed-circuit broadcast of the event could only be exhibited in a commercial establishment accessible to the general public, if the establishment was contractually authorized to do so by Plaintiff,” the complaint reads.

In order to broadcast the fight to the public, an establishment had to agree to pay a fee, which G&G claims neither Lugo, Ozuna, nor the city did.

Furthermore, the suit claims the defendants violated the Communications Act of 1934 by accessing and broadcasting the fight without authorization.

“On September 16, 2017, either by satellite transmission or through unauthorized receipt over cable system, Defendants willfully intercepted or received the interstate communication of the Event,” the complaint reads.

“In the alternative, Defendants assisted in the receipt of the interstate communication of the Event … and published said communication, or assisted in transmitting” the fight to those who attended the campaign event, it reads.

G&G is seeking up to $170,000, plus attorney’s fees.

For their part, both Lugo and Ozuna deny the allegations of the lawsuit.

In a response filed Dec. 28, 2020, by their attorney, Damian C. Orozco, the pair ask for the court to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, and seek attorney’s fees of their own.

They also claim that they “acted in good faith and had reasonable grounds for believing their actions were in compliance with the Communications Act of 1934,” the response reads.

The defendants also say the complaint has been brought after the statute of limitations to do so has expired.

Meanwhile, the complaint alleges that the city of Donna is culpable in the suit because the park is city property which Donna “had a right and ability to supervise the activities of…” and “had an obvious and direct financial interest in the activities of the Establishment.”

However, the city of Donna has yet to respond to the complaint, despite being served with notice of the suit months ago.

Court records show a process server hand delivered notice of the suit to Deputy City Secretary Belinda Tosca at Donna City Hall on Oct. 16, 2020.

By this Wednesday morning, however, when attorneys for G&G, as well as Lugo and Ozuna, met for an initial conference before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, Donna remained a no-show.

The city’s noticeable absence prompted the judge’s first remarks on the case.

“It appears city of Donna has been served, but just isn’t answering?” Crane asked David Diaz, the attorney representing G&G.

Diaz responded that neither he nor Orozco, the attorney for the other two defendants, had heard from the city.

“I was waiting to put off the request for entry of default until this hearing to see if they appeared,” Diaz said, referring to submitting a request for default judgment against the city.

Crane appeared flummoxed that Donna would ignore the suit.

“I just don’t know why they would neglect this,” he said, before adding that progress on the lawsuit needs to move forward.

“I need to get you all on a scheduling order, at least for the defendants that are participating, and then proceed with the default on the city,” Crane said.

Reached for comment Sunday, Donna City Attorney Javier Villalobos said he was unaware of the lawsuit.

“I guess I need to look into it because I didn’t even know about it,” Villalobos said.

Though Villalobos has served as the Donna city attorney for more than a decade, he wasn’t the attorney at the time the suit was filed, nor when the process was served on the city in October.

The Donna City Council appointed Villalobos as city attorney in mid-November — one month after the lawsuit was filed, and almost a year after he had previously resigned from the position in December 2019.

For the majority of 2020, Donna’s city attorney was Ricardo Perez, who also served as the city’s bond counsel.

Villalobos said he didn’t know why the city had failed to respond to the lawsuit, but that he would promptly look into it and prepare a response.

“I’m gonna take a look at it Monday and find out what it is and file the proper response. Find out if it’s something we need to defend ourselves, or something that’s covered by insurance,” Villalobos said.

“I don’t have the facts, but I will look into it pretty quick,” he said.