The long and strange saga of Zach Corcoran and the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets came to a close today when Edward Helle and Steven Ramirez, the two cadets who beat up Corcoran, pled guilty to assault charges in a Brazos County court.
Helle was given four years probation on a felony aggravated assault, and Ramirez got one year probation on a misdemeanor. The sentences may not seem like much, considering the severity of the beating, but considering what the Corcorans have been through the last five years, it's a huge victory for the family.
The Houston Press first covered the case in a January 2008 cover story, "Rotten to the Corps." The basics of the story:
In 2005, Helle and Ramirez got in a fight with Corcoran, after a night a drinking, at an apartment complex near the university. The cadets pinned down Corcorcan and punched him until the right side of his face caved in. Corcoran recovered from the injuries, but his vision is permanently damaged.
Texas A&M and authorities in Brazos County launched investigations about the incident, and the university suspended Helle and Ramirez for a semester and kicked them out of the Corps. The men were also ordered to make an effort to pay Zach's $60,000 medical bills before they could return to A&M. And both cadets were indicted on assault charges.
But months later, the Corcorans received word that the school had dropped all sanctions against Helle and Ramirez, with no explanation. The Brazos County District Attorney sent the assault case to the county attorney, who dismissed the whole thing because, as he wrote in court documents, it was "In the interest of justice."
The Corcoran family was shocked, and Zach's father John, who had graduated from A&M and been a member of the Corps, believed the university had swept everything under the rug because Helle and Ramirez were in the Corps. None of that was ever proven, of course, but for whatever reason, the men had walked away from the cases with no punishment.
That's where the case stood when our story was published, but in the year that followed, John Corcoran continued pursuing the case. He got a package of information about the assault -- including the Press's story -- to almost every member of the Brazos County grand jury.
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In October of 2008, Helle and Ramirez were indicted again on felony assault charges, and today's pleadings brought the whole thing to an end.
"We're glad it's over. It was quite clear they didn't want to go to trial," John Corcoran tells Hair Balls. "We just kept plodding along, but if you didn't have the time, the energy or resources, you couldn't fight these things"
He adds, "We can all be pleased with the result, but they can't give my son back his eyesight."
One thing that is left in the case is an explanation why Texas A&M reversed its ruling and allowed the cadets to get off with no punishment. Jerry Brown, an attorney for the Texas A&M System, told us in 2008 that he might tell the Corcorans what happened when "the time is right." We imagine that the time is now.