Father upset with justice system after son’s alleged killer released on bond

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The father of a man allegedly killed by a drunk driver is upset with the court system after it allowed the driver to bond out of jail.

He said the suspect, who is from Guatamala, should remain behind bars until his trial.

The Travis County District Attorney has charged 21-year-old Elmer Cortez-Reyes with intoxication manslaughter.

Investigators said he ran a red light at the intersection of Rutland Drive and Mearns Meadow Boulevard and slammed into 25-year-old James Mares on Monday, Feb. 10.

“A lot of anguish, a lot of pain, a lot of hurt,” said Samuel Mares, James’ father, when asked how his family has been coping with the sudden loss. “I miss my son. He’s gone forever.”

Mares is frustrated. He believes the criminal justice system is being too light on Cortez-Reyes.

The 21-year-old has bonded out of jail — a right the court system granted him. But Mares believes his foreign background makes him a flight-risk.

“They are not taking this serious enough for me to be happy with,” Mares said. “He can up and leave whenever he wants. What’s holding him down? There’s nothing holding him down from getting up and going.”

Cortez-Reyes’ attorney said he has no criminal history and has worked in Austin for several years as a restaurant manager. He also said Cortez-Reyes is deeply sorrowful after the fatal crash.

The Travis County court set certain bond conditions for Cortez-Reyes, similar to anyone who may face an intoxication manslaughter charge:

  • 10% of $75,000 bond
  • Ignition Interlock Device installed into vehicle
  • Portable Alcohol Monitor which requires proof of sobriety four times per day
  • Bi-weekly check-ins
  • Evaluations and Treatment
  • No alcohol or drugs allowed

A person convicted of intoxication manslaughter in Texas could be sentenced to between two and 20 years in prison. There’s also a $10,000 fine and community service requirement.

Retired judge and current criminal defense attorney Charlie Baird said it’s important that all people, no matter their nationality, be given the same due process if being tried within the United States.

“This is obviously an emotional time for them. But the important thing for us to remember as a society is that individuals are not penalized until they are in fact proven to be guilty,” Baird said.

Baird said Travis County’s proper enforcement of Constitutional rights, particularly in this case, should be admired.

“The criminal justice system of Travis County is abiding by the constitution of the U.S. and Texas and they are affording everyone in the system all the rights afforded to them as they go through the system,” Baird said.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office said Cortez-Reyes has been fully compliant since the fatal crash. The attorney representing the 21-year-old said it will continue to stay that way.

“While I cannot specifically comment on an ongoing situation, we fully intend to work with any investigators into this tragic accident to the best of our ability. As the prosecutor has stated, my client remains in full compliance with everything asked of him to date.”

Steve Toland, Criminal Defense Attorney

Even still, Mares believes more eyes should be on Cortez-Reyes until he faces justice.

“I lost my son’s life, I believe he should be put in jail for the rest of his life,” Mares said. “It doesn’t make no sense at all.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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