Readers of AC may remember my interest in the SPCA-TX, a private organization with some pretty heavy duty police powers, though unburdened by much in the way of governmental oversight. In the first of my posts, I reported on John Stossel's undercover investigation, which revealed the workings of the organization and the role of its driving force, Dave Garcia. Not only had SPCA-TX gained stature under Mr. Garcia, but it was ever more successful in attracting contributions from an appreciative citizenry.
More disturbingly, the SPCA-TX was able to spearhead the enactment of legislation that increased its power: for example, once a Justice of the Peace approves one of the SPCA's confiscation orders, the owner of the confiscated animal can't do anything about it, and the Stossel report (op cit) outlines a number of instances where the SPCA-TX evidently saw abuse where there was probably none.
Of course, political clout and fund raising success are tied closely to favorable publicity, and favorable publicity comes from an approving media reporting the busting of bad guys to concerened citizens with deep pockets (potential donars).
So, for an organization like the SPCA-TX, finding and correcting "problems" can become much more than just a matter of survival: it can become downright profitable, and herein lies an inherent conflict of interest. It is in their (the SPCA's) financial and political interests to bring more animal abusers to justice than fewer. Nothing, after all, succeeds like success, and flashy raids and confiscations are proof that the SPCA is doing it's job aggressively and successfully.
Enter Mr. Stossel and his TV crew, which included a veterinarian disguised as a reporter, and ABC's unflattering report (to say the least) of both Mr. Garcia and the SPCA-TX. SPCA-TX fired back, and demanded that ABC correct it's erroneous reports, but ABC held it's ground, and posted both the SPCA-TX complaint and it's (ABC's) rebuttal of it.
As things stood at this point, the SPCA-TX and Mr. Garcia had had their credibility questioned, but probably not fatally so. Such arguments devolve into "he-said" "she-said" confusion in no time at all, with nothing anyone says being dispositive.
But then, there came a revelation out of the blue. Dring the trial of Julia McMurrey, who was accused by the SPCA-TX of animal abuse and charged accordingly, it came to light that Mr. Garcia might have had a criminal record, a record that he apparently had not disclosed to the district attorney who was prosecuting the case. In my post, I reported:
My source adds this to the mix: ". . . he (Garcia), or someone with his name and date of birth, has a 1976 conviction for an extremely serious felony from Arizona that involved a 9 to 12 year sentence in prison." Whether or not the two are one and the same is still an open question, but should they be, I would think it would bear on the present case.
Well, the charges against McMurrey have been dropped, evidently because the rumors about Mr. Garcia's criminal past were credible, and he had failed to disclose his criminal past to the prosecution.
All remaining charges have been dropped against a Smith County woman accused of animal cruelty.
Julia McMurrey ran a dog rescue called P.A.W.S. Around the Planet. That's where the SPCA of Texas removed close to 200 dogs, some sick and malnourished.
In March, McMurrey was sentenced to jail for one count of animal cruelty. She was scheduled to go on trial this month for the remaining three counts. But the prosecution discovered a problem with its key witness.
The district attorney says Dave Garcia of the SPCA did not disclose his criminal history when he was asked about it.
The SPCA of Texas says that does not change the fact that they found dead and dying animals at McMurrey's shelter.
"The expertise of Mr. Garcia versus allegations of past issues... To me, it's not Dave Garcia that's on trial," James Bias, president of the SPCA of Texas, said. "It's the perpetrator of alleged animal cruelty."
Garcia has been convicted on multiple felony and misdemeanor DWI's in several states, and has a warrant for his arrest in Arizona.
Mr. Garcia's criminal past (and present!) and his failure to disclose them resulted in a person charged with a crime walking free. I'm not here to say that McMurrey was guilty or innocent, or to defend or condemn the bringing of charges against her in the first place. But I am here to say that Mr. Garcia's antics worked against his own and the SPCA-TX's interests. If McMurrey were guilty (and I don't know that she was — we have to believe evidence provided largely by someone whose credibility is tainted), a guilty party walked free.
Since I last wrote about this, I've received a whole slew of pdf documents (copies of court and prison records) which seem to suggest that Mr. Garcia's "major felony" was twofold: Count 1, kidnapping while armed with a deadly weapon; and Count 2, rape while armed with a deadly weapon. Mr. Garcia was evidently convicted and sentenced in 1973 (apparently not 1976 as I previously reported). He apparently received his complete discharge from "parole and the sentence" in 1979 (meaning the law considered that he had paid his debt to society).
I'm speculating that Mr. Garcia's conviction by itself might not have been enough to scuttle the McMurrey case, since it was so far in the past, had he but lived a clean life after having been released, and had he owned up to his past with the prosecutor. But his other difficulties with the law, including his outstanding warrant and his failure to disclose his criminal history when asked about it, in my opinion, shredded the DA's case and forced them to drop it.
What to think of this?
First, assuming the Mr. Garcia's history is about as I've outlined here, you have to wonder whether Mr. Garcia's job application had his criminal record listed on it. If not, was it because at the time he applied for a job the SPCA-TX didn't ask him, or because they did ask him and he didn't tell the truth (SPCA-TX now runs background checks on their applicants through a commercial firm).
If Mr. Garcia's criminal history was on his job application, why didn't he just tell the DA when he was asked about his past?
Mr. Garcia's apparent failure to disclose his past resulted in one
I'm very concerned about Mr. Bias downplaying Mr. Garcia's criminal past (and present! there is still that outstanding warrant!), not to mention the fact that Mr. Garcia was not truthful with the DA. The people of Texas should be concerned as well. (Notice how Mr. Bias deflected attention away from Mr. Garcia, his failure to tell the truth to the DA, his outstanding warrant, and his criminal past, and towards McMurrey, as if she had been proved guilty, and it is her fault that the charges against her were dismissed!).
To what extent was Mr. Bias's endorsement of Mr. Garcia driven by his sincere belief that Mr. Garcia's continued running of the SPCA-TX was in the best interests of Texans and their animals, or by something else? Would Mr. Bias be so sanguine about Mr. Garcia if Mr. Garcia hadn't been so effective in building the SPCA-TX into its present multimillion dollar operation, one with considerable legal as well as financial clout? One has to wonder: does Mr. Garcia know things about the SPCA-TX that might embarrass them more than his shabby treatment of the truth, and is Mr. Bias at all concerned that such information might come out if he were to come down hard on Mr. Garcia?
There are a lot of other disturbing questions that could be raised, and I hope are. But is anyone with investigative resources — like a reporter — willing to do so?
After all, there seems to be quite a rich mix here: there are lots of dollars (according to ABC's report, SPCA-TX took in $6 million last year), political clout, peace officer power, a person of dubious character in a position of power, his defender, who is his boss and the president of an organization that appears not to be accountable to the state of Texas, at least not in the same way state law enforcement agencies are, if it (the SPCA) is accountable at all!
I smell quite a story here, but will the local press will investigate?
I'm enough of a cynic not to be holding my breath.