Newspaper Fights City Hall
Newspaper Fights City Hall
New Braunfels PD fights back
By Craig Malisow
In case you weren't aware, a war (of sorts) has been brewing in the otherwise sleepy hamlet of New Braunfels. Late last year, Leonidas Patrick "Mark" McGonical, a critic of a new can-ban law that keeps tubers on the Comal River from bringing disposable containers, launched a newspaper called the NB Citizen. Believing that the long-running New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung was just a tool of the political establishment, McGonical thought his new endeavor, the NB Citizen, would be the voice of the people.
But NB Citizen publisher Mike Reynolds and editor Matt Fields say their delivery drivers were harassed and intimidated by local police — to the point where they ceased delivering more than 18,000 copies of the weekly paper to individual homes, and now distribute through racks set up in local businesses.
Fields told Hair Balls that the newspaper filed complaints with the New Braunfels Police Department, accusing police of either stopping drivers or making harassing remarks on at least three occasions. In one instance, according to Fields, an officer told a driver that he would ticket her for littering if she missed any driveways; in another, an officer allegedly stopped a driver and asked her how she knew where not to throw the trash. In the third incident, an officer allegedly cited a driver for violating vehicle emissions standards. Fields said he immediately took the driver's car for an inspection — which the car passed.
Fields said he let his concerns be known to police department higher-ups, telling them, "Y'all are going out and harassing my employees — is this the game we're going to play?"
Fields and Reynolds also voiced their concerns at a March City Council meeting, during which none of the council seemed particularly interested.
Police Captain John McDonald told us he was only aware of one formal complaint, which he said was investigated and determined to be unfounded.
"It's just the normal course of our officers doing their job," McDonald said.
In a letter to a delivery driver who filed a complaint earlier this month — the one who accused the officer of calling the papers "trash" — Police Chief Thomas Wilbert wrote that the officer was only "following up on complaints...regarding unwanted newspapers being thrown in residents' yards. In fact, on a prior date, [the officer] personally took a report from a resident who contacted NBPD and demanded to press charges against the NB Citizen for littering in their yard, and a newspaper was taken and marked as evidence." (Apparently, people in New Braunfels have a lot on their plate.)
We left a message for Herald-Zeitung managing editor Shawn Lewis and haven't heard back. (One aspect the H-Z has had fun with is reporting on the aggravated perjury indictment of NB Citizen publisher McGonical, who legally changed his name from Mark Jason Moore two years ago.)
Guadalupe County prosecutors say McGonical lied about his criminal history when he changed his name, neglecting to mention a 1989 burglary conviction, when he was 19.
McGonical maintains that the conviction had been expunged, and he was only changing his name to honor his family's Irish heritage.
We also sought comment from New Braunfels City Manager Mike Morrison, who the NB Citizen gang say is the one behind the intimidation tactics, but haven't heard back. Maybe he's too busy sticking pins in his McGonical voodoo doll. Either that, or he's busy running a city. We'll have to wait and see.
Arson Charge for Late Nite Pie Owner
By Richard Connelly
A second person has been charged with arson in connection with the blaze at Montrose mainstay Late Nite Pie.
Felicity D. Burris, 35, has been charged, joining manager Raymond Pecher, who was charged with arson earlier this month.
Burris is being held without bond because she is on deferred adjudication for a 2010 felony forgery of a financial instrument case.
Late Nite Pie, which was commonly believed to be having severe financial problems, burned in the early hours of February 8.
Court documents say Pecher has confessed to lighting the fire, and that "he did so at the request of Felicity Burris."
The arson was initially planned for December, court documents state, because the business was in financial trouble. But it was put off.
Pecher "stated that 'About a week prior to the fire Felicity Burris told me that the business needed to be gone soon, and on the morning of the fire, Felicity called me on my cell phone and asked me if it was going to be done today,'" court documents show.
Pecher said Burris promised to "take care of him" and that she had paid his rent since the fire.
Court documents say Shane Strahan, who lives with Burris and is her personal assistant, heard several conversations about burning the business down, including one where she said, "I'm tired of it. I just want it gone. I want it to burn."
Smugglers Left Diabetic to Die in Ditch
By Richard Connelly
The U.S. Attorney's Office has charged two people with conspiring to transport and harbor illegal aliens, but their case is more serious than that.
Prosecutors say Demi Mishel Muniz, 33, and Luis Aceituno, 26, were transporting illegal immigrants in a van from Houston to Los Angeles when one of the passengers began to get sick.
Muniz called the man's wife — at first, to make sure she had deposited $650 in Muniz's account, and later, to say he was getting sick.
The woman said he was diabetic and needed insulin. Muniz instead told her they were dropping him off near Amarillo.
"Muniz allegedly stated that she could not help him because she had other people in the van and needed to keep moving," prosecutors say.
The man's body was found in a ditch near the small Panhandle town of Vega.
"According to an autopsy report, the alien died from lobar pneumonia and would have survived had he received timely medical treatment," prosecutors said.
On the plus side, Muniz told the wife she did not need to deposit the $650 because they were dropping her husband off short of the agreed destination.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.