Former Socorro ISD trustee’s trial delayed, prosecutors allege Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Sr. accepted bribe in exchange for vote


The trial of a former Socorro mayor and school board president for public corruption charges was supposed to begin this week.

But with U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo disqualifying Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Sr.’s attorney, Joe Spencer, it’s not going to start until March.

Judge Montalvo agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof that Spencer also representing the defendant’s son, Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr., in a federal drug trafficking case would be a conflict, the El Paso Times reports.

"We are ready to try this case and (Gandara Sr.) has the right to have his own lawyer, but the court ordered me off the case," Spencer, who has been the Gandaras’ family lawyer for about a decade, told the Times. "When I first started representing Mr. Gandara Jr., the information I got from the government was that there was no conflict."

The prosecutor told the judge that she plans on calling the son to testify against his father in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Gandara Sr., 62, is the only one of 11 defendants to plead not guilty to public corruption charges.

Prosecutors allege that in February 2006, Gandara Sr. allegedly accepted a $1,000 bribe from Access HealthSource spokesman Marc Schwartz intended for Gandara Jr.'s campaign for state representative in exchange for Gandara Sr.'s vote in support for Access as the Socorro Independent School District's health-insurance provider.

Gandara Jr., 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and establishment of manufacturing operations to distribute marijuana last month. His sentencing hearing is Nov. 14.

Contact Mike Cronin at or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo of gavel by flickr user Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, used via a Creative Commons license.