After several postponements, the status hearing and jury selection for the case involving five former El Paso Independent School District administrators, connected with an alleged district-wide cheating scheme, began Monday.
Defendants Nancy Love, Dianne Thomas, Mark Philip Tegmeyer, James Anderson, and John Tanner were present with their attorneys. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones is presiding over the case, which is expected to last more than 2 weeks, with more than 200 potential witnesses according to court documents.
The former EPISD administrators are facing several charges with the scheme. Anderson, former EPISD Associate Superintendent is facing one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and providing false statements to investigators.
Tanner, former principal at Austin High School and Tegmeyer, a former assistant principal at the same high school, are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, frauds and swindles, and retaliating against a witness or victim.
Thomas and Love, former assistant principals at Austin High School are charged with retaliating against a witness or victim; and one count of retaliating against a witness or victim and false declarations before a grand jury, respectively.
All have pled not guilty.
During the status hearing, attorneys for the defendants filed a motion for a transfer of venue, and several motions to limine, or asking the court for an order to limit or prevent some evidence from being presented that could be considered irrelevant, inadmissible or prejudicial.
Briones denied a transfer of venue, overruled several motions to limine but granted a motion to limine to excluding grand jury testimony and that no reference be made to Anderson’s administrative hearings with the Texas Education Agency.
In addition, Briones had Damon Murphy redacted from several sections of the original indictment.
Murphy, former EPISD Associate Superintendent, plead guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government.
According to court documents, and testimony from Texas Education Hearings on three former Bowie High School administrators in July 2016 Murphy directed the administrators to take pictures of students crossing the international bridge from Juarez, Mexico into the United States. Murphy had directed a team of truant officers to identify students who may not reside within the EPISD district.
According to court documents, Murphy pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government in connection with the cheating scheme.
Murphy is expected to be sentenced in July.
Robert Perez, defense lawyer for Anderson, objected to the redaction of Murphy’s name on the indictment citing that many references to Murphy was key to his client’s defense. Love’s attorney Mary Stillinger agreed with Perez as did attorneys for Tegmeyer, Tanner and Thomas.
Briones overruled their objections, but added that they could still use the original indictment, without redactions, as reference.
After the status hearing, the jury selection began. Attorneys must select from a pool of 52 final jurors. The court had initially called for 200, but received responses from just over 100, of those 52 were selected. From the 52, a jury of 12 must be selected.