New Developments in Lawsuit Over Texas Prisoner’s Death

The family of Gregorio de la Rosa, Jr. was awarded $42.5 million from their lawsuit filed against The GEO Group for negligence in the 2001 death of Gregorio while he was in custody of the Willacy County Correctional Facility in Raymondsville, TX. According to the court’s judgment, “Gregorio, an honorably discharged former National Guardsman, was serving a six-month sentence at a prison operated by Wackenhut Correction Corporation [now The GEO Group] for possession of fewer than 1/4 grams of cocaine. A few days before his expected release, Gregorio was beaten to death by two other inmates using a lock tied to a sock, while… Wackenhut’s wardens smirked and laughed” (TPB).

During the following investigation, prosecutors questioned whether or not The GEO Group destroyed surveillance video evidence of the incident. The family claimed there was a videotape of the event, and when questioned about the video, “Warden Forrest testified during his deposition that there was a video camera on one of the perimeter posts that was focused down on the beating. In his sworn statement, he admitted to seeing a tape of the beating and described the video and the beating in detail. His stated that the video showed ‘that one inmate had beat another inmate with a sock filled with a lock,’ and it showed an inmate kicking and punching Gregorio.

“After reviewing his deposition, however, Warden Forrest changed his testimony, claiming that the video never existed. At trial, he admitted to describing the video in his deposition testimony, but he claimed that his prior testimony describing the video was ‘based on all the information that I received regarding that incident over and over receiving information.’ He explained that he had created his ‘own little movie’ in his mind.

“I did that based on all the information that I received regarding that incident over and over receiving information. I put that picture—painted that picture in my head that I believed that’s what I saw, and that’s what I testified to, and I corrected it that day and at a later date… I described what I thought I saw based on the information of everyone telling me what happened. I painted a picture of that incident in my mind, and I played it over in my mind many, many times since then.”

However, since this ruling against The GEO Group, the de la Rosa’s attorney, Ronald Rodriguez, has charged the company with filing fraudulent SEC reports. The GEO Group claimed that both the Texas Rangers and the Texas Office of the Inspector General both exonerated the company from any responsibility for the death of de la Rosa in 2001. However, there is no record of either party having this sentiment. According to Rodriguez’s statements, “there is nothing in the record supporting GEO’s patently untrue statements of material fact and omission of material fact, in the documents filed with the SEC” (BH). Rodriguez claims the actions of The GEO Group are a mockery of the legal system. Last Friday, Rodriguez said these claims of filing fraudulent SEC reports is still forthcoming.

On another similar note, the investigation into de la Rosa’s murder case also uncovered some information linking former Vice President Dick Cheney to $85 million in investments with Vanguard Group and the prison industry. Attorney Juan Guerra asserts that these investments resulted in Cheney using his influential position to quell proper and thorough investigations into the murder of de la Rosa, and that the money given to the family in 2006 was an attempt to end all investigations into Gregorio’s death. After filing these charges, Juan Guerra was arrested and claimed that it was an attempt to keep him from uncovering the information linking the Vice President to murder coverups.

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