Jury hands down guilty verdict for Gilmer man accused of endangering Smith County deputy
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A jury trial began Wednesday for a Gilmer man now found guilty of aggravated assault against a public servant and leading deputies on a pursuit in May of 2020.
On Wednesday evening, Joel Lee Gonzales, 34, was found guilty by a jury of aggravated assault against a public servant and evading arrest. His sentence will be decided at a later date.
His trial began Wednesday morning in Judge Austin Reeve Jackson’s courtroom.
According to the sheriff’s office, a Smith County Sheriff’s K-9 deputy initiated a traffic stop on Interstate 20 at County Road 3111 in Smith County. At the moment of the stop, the deputy requested that Gonzales exit the vehicle. At that time, Gonzales allegedly retrieved a handgun from between his legs, chambered a round, and then fled in his vehicle.
The sheriff’s office said the deputy initiated a pursuit that led him south on County Road 3111 and then west on County Road 3119. Gonzales wrecked his vehicle after the short pursuit and fled on foot into a heavily wooded area, according to officials deputies lost sight and were unable to locate Gonzales.
Before opening statements and before the jury was brought in, the defense argued Gonzales was initially stopped because of a traffic violation and that it would be prejudicial to mention certain information that does not deal with the case in hand and that currently, the defense was not dealing with an evading case that the prosecution mentioned.
The prosecuting attorney argued the information was pertinent to the case and that it goes to his intent to commit an alleged assault and to evade arrest. Jackson asked if he felt they were related.
“It goes to his intent to both offenses they are one and the same he commits the act of the assault, the two of it why does he want to get away, because he doesn’t want to go to jail,” said prosecutor Noah Coltman.
Coltman was adamant Gonzalez did not want to go to jail and since Gonzalez had warrants including a felony warrant out for his arrest he didn’t want to go to jail.
When asked if it was one warrant or multiple warrants, Jackson left it at a warrant goes to intent as to why he tried to evade arrest.
“I think the fact that there is a felony warrant out for his arrest I think that was his intent to do, it’s all part of the same thing he wants to get away, he doesn’t want to go to jail, so he assaults officer Terrazas and then takes off,” said Coltman.
Jackson asked the prosecution if it’s a warrant or multiple warrants, and the prosecution responded that were felony and misdemeanor warrants.
“At this point, until it becomes necessary to do otherwise I am going to be limited to the existence of a warrant,” Jackson said.
Jackson asked if there were any other prejudices the defense pointed out that there were 2 instances that may be brought forth by the officers, he requested and wanted to make sure that the witnesses do not mention the warrants or any previous criminal history of Gonzalez.
“I don’t have a problem with that I’ve already instructed them on not saying anything about the fact that the client is a felon or a gang member,” Coltman said.
A few moments later the jury was escorted in and Coltman began his initial statement, stating that being an officer was a dangerous profession and that the defendant Gonzalez was a dangerous individual that needed to be put away.
In defense of Gonzalez, his attorney responded that the state has the burden of proof and that they can call witnesses first, but that Mr. Gonzalez is innocent & presumed not guilty, and he reminded the jury to keep in mind that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gonzalez is guilty.
Shortly after Judge Jackson asked Gonzalez to stand and to plea, Gonzalez pleads not guilty.
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