The trial of Francisco Javier Tafolla, who is also alleged to be an illegal alien, was delayed until April 24, Byrd said. Visiting Judge Diane DeVasto of Tyler on Jan. 30 had set jury selection for March 5 and testimony for March 7 in 115th District Court, but ordered the case postponed.
Jury selection and testimony are both scheduled April 24, said Byrd. Tafolla's family employed Dallas attorney Willie Cantu to join Longview attorney Tonda Curry in representing the defendant, the prosecutor said.
Tafolla, 23, was already in state prison for an unrelated offense when he was indicted for the Feb. 13, 2011, robbery. DNA evidence implicated him in that case last October after he had been sentenced to five years in prison the prior May for burglary of a habitation, said Byrd.
In the robbery, the victim suffered minor injuries to her elbow and guns were stolen, said Byrd. Because she was older than 65 and suffered the minor injury, Tafolla was charged with aggravated robbery, punishable by 15 years to life imprisonment, the district attorney said.
An Upshur County grand jury returned a sealed indictment against Tafolla last Nov. 23, Byrd said. The defendant was brought back here from a state prison unit in Bonham Jan. 24, and the federal Department of Homeland Security has a detainer on him because he is a Mexican national and illegal alien, said Byrd.
Thus, Judge DeVasto set no bond on the aggravated robbery charge at Tafolla's Jan. 30 arraignment, telling him "You're not going anywhere."
She also questioned the defendant about his ability to hire an attorney, and Tafolla, a former Gilmerite, replied, "I don't know if I could hire one . . . I'll talk to my mom."
The judge appointed Ms. Curry as Tafolla's lawyer, but said he could substitute a paid attorney if he retains one. After questioning Tafolla about his work, education, and financial situation, the judge said, "You would qualify for an appointed attorney." But she said she would instruct Ms. Curry not to visit him for three days lest he change lawyers.
Byrd told the judge that some of the defendant's family had been trying to hire an attorney and that if they do, Byrd would contact the court. Byrd said Sunday night the family has employed Ms. Curry as well as Cantu, and that the pre-trial hearing in the case is now scheduled April 13.