The ongoing litigation of Billy Malaer, Mario Banda and Belinda Walker were the high points of Thursday’s district court proceedings under 25th Judicial District Court Judge Dwight Peschel.
Malaer pled guilty, Banda got his bond amount dropped by $125,000, and Walker’s trial was again reset.
Peschel received a plea of guilty from Malaer for tampering with a government document, and ordered a presentencing investigation (PSI) of Malaer to determine the severity of his sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 25.
A PSI delves into the history of person convicted of a crime before sentencing to determine if there are any factors that should alter the sentence or a history of criminal behavior to increase the harshness of the sentence.
Malaer served as director of community services for the city, and was responsible for J.B. Wells Park, Independence Park and other city facilities. He was indicted on two counts of tampering with the timesheets of city employees who were, in fact, not working.
In a surprising development, Banda, who is charged with possession of a controlled substance and deadly conduct (discharging a firearm), had his bond amount reduced from $150,000 to $25,000.
“I cannot afford my bond,” Banda said of the $150,000 required for him to get out of jail. “I turned myself in, so you know I’m not going to run. Plus, I have a three-year-old daughter who needs me.”
In response to defense attorney Lowell Kendall’s question regarding a bond of $30,000, Banda said that, with some help from his family, he could afford that amount. Peschel subsequently reduced the amount to $25,000, and reset Banda’s trial for Dec. 12.
“We don’t think Mario poses any flight risk,” Kendall said of the decision. “We think the facts the DA believes they have are going to be undisputed. [Our] opposition is that Mario did not fire a weapon. So I think the judge took those things under consideration and reduced it.
“There are still negotiations going on,” Kendall added. “I’m hoping we don’t have to go to trial. We have some things in the works that may dispose of the drug case. The deadly conduct case is probably a little more complex.”
Belinda Walker, a former Gonzales city employee who was terminated in July 2011, is charged with 13 counts of theft by a public servant, allegedly misappropriating as much as $250,000 in municipal funds during a span of more than two years. The charges against Walker, who served as the city parks secretary, came eight months and one day after she was terminated from her position with the city Parks & Recreation Department. Her trial was reset for Oct. 25.