Rotten to the Corps: A Question of Justice at Texas A&M

Thanks to A& M and a district attorney, two cadets escape punishment for beating in a student's face

That case, which was billed by the grand jury as a felony, also involved a fight between college students in which the victim suffered injuries similar to Zach's.

Bryan and Mask immediately filed a motion to have Thibodeaux dismissed as special prosecutor since Thibodeaux had previously been contacted by the Corcorans. Lisa Helle, Eddie's mother, also testified that Thibodeaux had threatened her during the grand jury hearing with civil litigation from the Corcorans.

Thibodeaux denies this allegation, and John Corcoran says he has never threatened anyone with a civil suit.

Zach Corcoran in the hospital hours after his fight with the cadets. Click here for more photos of his injuries.
Photos courtesy of the Corcoran family
Zach Corcoran in the hospital hours after his fight with the cadets. Click here for more photos of his injuries.
A CAT scan revealed a "blowout" on the left side of Zach's face.
Photos courtesy of the Corcoran family
A CAT scan revealed a "blowout" on the left side of Zach's face.

The judge ruled that Thibodeaux could proceed as special prosecutor, and Thibodeaux began preparing for trial. He planned to call Zach's emergency-room doctor, Scott Kimball, who had told the Corcorans that Zach's injuries came from more than "just a fight." He planned to call Leah Cook, who had testified before the university panel that Ramirez had held Zach while Helle hit him. Thibodeaux even planned to bring in the couch where Zach had been pinned.

"I was prepared to go to trial," Thibodeaux says. "I feel I could have presented the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

But a week before the trial, Kuboviak set up a conference call with the Corcorans and Bonilla. Kuboviak had arranged a deal with Helle and Ramirez, and explained that the defendants would pay approximately $50,000 to cover Zach's medical bills.

The Corcorans said no. They wanted a jury to hear the case.

"There was no guarantee that we would win...depending on who the jury believed," Bonilla says. "But at least we'd have a trial."

According to Mask, Helle and Ramirez never officially agreed to the deal, but he says that the Corcorans acted ­unreasonably.

"Their response is always, 'We want justice,'" Mask says, "but they won't be satisfied with anything short of seeing my boys go to prison. Even if they got that, I don't think it would be enough."

The day after the Corcorans refused to accept the deal, Kuboviak arranged another conference call.

"We thought we were going to discuss strategy," John says. "We were a week away from going to trial."

Instead, Kuboviak dropped a bombshell. He said he was completely dismissing the case and offered little explanation why. The only record of Kuboviak's dismissal is his signature on a "Motion to Dismiss" filing. The form lists several options for cause, including "insufficient evidence" or "restitution made" or "complaining witness does not want to prosecute."

But when Kuboviak dismissed the case against Helle and Ramirez, he handwrote on the form, "In the interest of justice."

Kuboviak would not comment on the case, because he says it could still be pending in the district attorney's office. He added that he would not do an interview until March, when the primary elections for the county attorney position in Brazos County are finished.

In a letter to Kuboviak written shortly after the decision to dismiss, John Corcoran wrote, "I found it astonishing that you, who had previously supported the prosecution, did such a sudden and unexpected turnaround...The inference, however, is strong that you succumbed, at the very least, to extraordinary political or personal ­pressure."

Soon after, John Corcoran took off his A&M ring and vowed never to wear it again. He encourages Zach to wear his ring — for business reasons — but Zach rarely puts it on.

"You can take any advertisement ever from Texas A&M University, and the first thing that you're going to see is the damn dog and then you see some Corps person," John says. "And they stand for that, God and country and we're so holy. It's not right."

He started pursuing the case on his own. His oil and gas business all but shut down for about six months. Zach woke up several times in the middle of the night to find his father in his home office, working at the computer.

John ardently searched for any information about the people involved. He started filling thick black binders with documents pertaining to Zach's case.

John paid a private investigator $5,000 to find any evidence on who could have influenced the university or the county attorney. John Corcoran estimates he has spent about $100,000 on Zach's case.

The elder Corcoran began receiving phone calls from friends and business associates who expressed concern, including a professor at A&M.

"He told me, 'You have got to let go of this. You're not going to beat Texas A&M University,'" John Corcoran says.

But he did not let go. He started writing letters to the university and prosecutors.

He wrote to Lieutenant General John Van Alstyne, the head of the Corps. "I was a Member of the Corps of Cadets Class of 1968," John wrote. "The actions of the Cadets not a reflection of the philosophy and Code of the Corps of Cadets."

He wrote to Robert Gates, who, at the time, was the president of Texas A&M. "I have lost all faith in the University that I cherish," John wrote.

John even sent pictures of Zach's injuries to each member of the university's Board of Regents. His whole purpose, he contends, is to receive an answer as to what happened.

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