AUSTIN -- A man suspected in the 2009 shooting death of a taco truck owner was on his way to possible freedom after a Travis County judge granted a bond that began the process to deport him to Mexico.
State District Judge David Wahlberg said he granted the "personal bond" to Jose Rodriguez, 39, after Rodriguez had been in jail nearly four years awaiting trial in the death of Mario Carbajal-Plata. It's a period of time that he said threatened Rodriguez's right to a speedy trial.
His decision also came amid a dispute about whether cell phone records in the case, which officials said placed Rodriguez near the crime scene on South Congress Avenue, could be admissible in court.
On Monday, after the KVUE Defenders and the Austin American-Statesman began jointly asking about Walhberg's decision, he revoked Rodriguez's personal bond and had Travis County deputies return him to the county jail from a federal holding facility in South Texas. That's where Rodriguez was awaiting possible deportation.
In a statement Wahlberg said that, “1,300 days of pretrial detention is unconscionable and a violation of the presumption of innocence and a person’s right to a speedy trial."
"Based on those circumstances I decided to grant a [personal] bond. As a result of that action, the state, the defense and I have conferred and agreed that Rodriguez will be brought back into Travis County custody, and this case will go to trial in March.”
But the case faces other challenges.
Last year another district judge ruled that the cell phone records in the case couldn't be used in trial because Austin police investigators obtained Rodriguez's phone number prior to informing him of his rights.
In a pretrial hearing Detective Jeff Greenwalt said that he and other investigators did not tell Rodriguez that he was suspected in Plata's death prior to asking him his number because "he may invoke his right to an attorney."
Police Chief Art Acevedo said he stands by the actions of the detectives and is relieved that Wahlberg revoked Rodriguez's personal bond.
"This man is a very dangerous individual who doesn't belong amongst us in the street," Acevedo said.
Wahlberg said he will grant no other extensions in the case -- even though prosecutors have a pending appeal before a higher court to have the cell phone evidence used in trial.