Can’t make bail, still in jail

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Man yet to be tried in court

By David Giuliani

Gilberto Reyes, the former professional baseball player, has been in the county jail for nearly 11 months, and he has yet to be tried on charges of distribution of drugs.

It looks like he’ll be waiting a few months longer.

On Wednesday, District Judge Gerald Baca rejected a petition from Reyes challenging his detention. Baca said such a request is normally reserved for after convictions.

“Good luck,” the judge told Reyes at the end of the hearing.

Reyes smiled and thanked Baca.

A former player for the Montreal Expos, a Major League team, Reyes, 44, has been in the local jail since last December.

His trial had been set for mid-September, but District Judge Eugenio Mathis had another trial in Union County at that time. Mathis extended the trial deadline by another six months.

The trial has been set for Feb. 23. At that point, Reyes will have been locked up for 15 months.

Reyes’ bail was set at $25,000 cash-only in the beginning, but it was later reduced to $5,000, although Baca indicated it had risen to $10,000. Reyes has never made bail.

On the morning of Dec. 22, 2007, Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic, rolled over a truck north of Las Vegas on Interstate 25. He and a woman were taken to the local hospital.

Afterward, state police said they found 425 packages of marijuana, amounting to more than 400 pounds.

On Wednesday, Las Vegas attorney Art Bustos represented Reyes in the matter involving the request to challenge his detention — formally known as a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Reyes’ usual attorney, Ben Mondragon, was representing a client in a rape trial at the same time, so he couldn’t attend the hearing with Baca.

Bustos agreed with the argument that such requests should be made post-conviction. But he said his client didn’t know the law well and needed access to a law library or the Internet.

However, Baca said most rural jails didn’t have such resources, but he said Reyes could contact his attorney for information on the law. The judge also said Reyes could request the court to assign another public defender, but he would have to come up with legitimate reasons.

In an interview at the jail on Wednesday, Reyes had nothing but good words to say about his attorney.

“So far, everything I’ve heard about Ben Mondragon is great. He fights for your freedom,” he said. “Lately, he’s been really busy.”

He said he has spoken with Mondragon seven times since being detained.

Reyes said the constitutional right to a speedy trial doesn’t seem to apply to him.

Since being detained, Reyes has become popular around the jail. He has signed his baseball card on a number of occasions, and he has put in hundreds of hours as a cook in the jail kitchen.

Jail officials say he has been well behaved and never has caused any disciplinary problems.

During his interview, he smiled a few times and even cracked a joke at one point.

Asked about his nearly year-long detention, he smiled and said, “They think I like jail too much.”

Reyes, who has a wife and four children in the United States, said he had been working at a baseball camp in Douglas, Ariz., not long before he was arrested in New Mexico. Before that, he was a manager of a team in Mexico.

He said a friend had him drive a truck full of furniture from Douglas to Denver for $2,000. A woman, Maria DeLaLuz, came along.

But on Interstate 25 in Mora County, Reyes lost control of the truck in a snowstorm and got into an accident. He had never driven in snow before.

Reyes said he didn’t know the marijuana was in the truck. He didn’t pack the vehicle; he was only responsible for delivering the furniture, he said.

He said that it’s obvious he didn’t know about the drugs because he waited for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident. He said a person who was knowingly transporting drugs would have fled.

DeLaLuz was also charged. She was able to post bail, but hasn’t been seen since, prosecutors said.

Reyes praised his treatment at the county jail.

“There are outstanding workers here,” he said.

Reyes said he has been offered a plea deal from prosecutors, but he can’t accept because if he does, he fears he’ll be forced to go back to the Dominican Republic. There’s no work there, he said.

“That’s why I’m fighting this. I have to fight this because I’m innocent,” he said.

Reyes has been in the United States for more than a quarter century, and he said he’s never had any brushes with the law before.

“The only things I have done is play ball and take care of my family,” he said.