Pardo Denied Bond
That's what FBI Special Agent Steve Hause told federal magistrate Judge Mark Lane during an afternoon hearing to determine whether Pardo and his older brother, Jose Pardo, should be released on bond, pending the outcome of a federal case charging the brothers with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute large quantities of heroin. The Pardo brothers were among 15 people arrested and charged federally on June 21 as part of the year-long joint federal-state-local investigation Operation Muerte Negra, or Black Death.
Indeed, during the nearly three-hour long hearing today matters of sickness and health – and, really, life and death – permeated testimony. According to lawyers for the Pardo brothers – veteran defense attorneys Ben Florey (for Amado) and Stephen Orr (for Jose) – each man is terminally ill, each diagnosed not only with cirrhosis but also with liver cancer (friends of the family say also that Amado suffers from Parkinson's, though that was not discussed in court today). Jose also recently detoxed from heroin use, Orr said – and Lane nodded agreement when Orr noted that his client looked much better in court today than he did just after his arrest on June 21. Conversely, Amado looked frail, slumped in a wheelchair next to Florey, his red-and-white striped jail uniform hanging limply over his shoulders.
Still, whether Amado was actually ill seemed a question that lingered as federal prosecutor Liz Cottingham questioned Hause about wiretap recordings of conversations involving Amado where he encouraged another member of the alleged heroin trafficking ring to fake ill health in order to curry favor in court. When Michael Martinez, 66 – allegedly one of Amado Pardo's right-hand men in the daily heroin distribution trade – was popped this spring by Austin Police (independent of the ongoing Muerte Negra investigation) for heroin possession, Hause said that federal investigators intercepted a string of conversations where Amado Pardo suggested Martinez get a wheelchair to ride into court, to demonstrate his frailty, a ploy to net him a short prison sentence. "Look all fucked up to make an impression on the prosecutor," Hause testified that Pardo said during an April phone call. "The world is a stage," Pardo allegedly said. And Martinez agreed, Hause testified, saying he would go into court "all naked, dirty underwear and drooling."
Nonetheless, Amado Pardo's attorney Florey elicited from Hause testimony to confirm that when officers executed a search warrant at his property in South Austin they did not find any heroin, drug packing supplies, weapons or cash. Hause said he had an idea why that was, but Florey cut him off "that would be your speculation," he said. When officers searched Jose Pardo's home on South Fifth Street, however, they found plenty, Hause testified, including 98 grams of heroin – gross weight, including the balloons the drug was packaged in – two firearms (one on his bed, and one in a work area where the heroin was found), and $14,000 in cash. Moreover, the feds offered, both men were documented members of the Texas Syndicate gang, even if they were older members, more identified with the Texas Syndicate Originales – more like "ex officio" members, Florey suggested – who far less associated with the gang's more violent episodes, both inside and outside prison, that are commonly associated with TS members.
Regardless, Lane determined that both men should be held in jail pending the outcome of the cases against them. Both have violent criminal histories – Amado did time twice for murder; Jose for aggravated assault, armed robbery and for escaping from detention, among other crimes. And despite each man having been diagnosed within the last decade with serious health problems each continued to put the heroin trade first, before taking care of their health – a condition that appears to make them unrepentant, or to Lane, a threat to society if released on bond. The "weight of the evidence tilts against you, and in favor of the government," he said.