The decision in an election contest filed after the March 2 Democratic Party primary now rests with the trial judge.

"I will get my decision out as quickly as possible," 198th Judicial District Judge M. Rex Emerson said at the end of the trial Thursday afternoon.

Emerson began hearing testimony Wednesday morning from witnesses called by attorneys for Gustavo Flores, who lost the Val Verde County Democratic Party nomination for county commissioner Precinct 4 by 29 votes to Jesus "Cheo" Ortiz.

After the election and a recount, Flores filed a lawsuit contesting the results of the election, charging that illegal mail-in ballots cast for Ortiz determined the outcome of the election.

On Thursday morning, Flores' attorneys, Jason Davis of Austin and Javier Maldonado of San Antonio, called Dora Gonzalez to testify.

Gonzalez listened to the attorneys' questions and gave her answers through a Spanish-language interpreter, Cordelia Casso Flores of Laredo, who also served as the translator for most of the other witnesses called to the stand during the two-day trial.

Gonzalez, who told the court she is 65 years old and lives on Highland Drive in the county's Cienegas Terrace neighborhood, told the judge, "I don't feel too well," as she took her seat in the witness box.

Emerson asked Gonzalez if she desired her own attorney and then told her, "Anything you say in court could be used against you in a future criminal proceeding."

"I don't have money to pay for an attorney," Gonzalez replied.

"Do you understand that you have the right to remain silent?" Emerson asked her.

"Yes," Gonzalez said.

"And do you understand that anything you say could be used against you in a future criminal proceeding?" Emerson asked.

"I understand," she replied.

Emerson also told Gonzalez she does not have the right to an appointed attorney in the election lawsuit, since it is a civil, not a criminal, proceeding.

Emerson also told Gonzalez she had the right to answer the questions posed by attorneys on a question-by-question basis, or to refuse to answer any specific question or questions by invoking her right not to incriminate herself under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Yes, I do understand," Gonzalez replied.

In reply to questions posed by Davis, Gonzalez testified she has been involved in local elections for the past 18 years.

When Davis asked her if she had filed the applications for mail-in ballots for more than 100 voters in the Democratic Party primary election earlier this year, Gonzalez said she had.

"And candidates ask you for your help?" Davis asked.

"Yes, even Mr. Flores asked for my help," Gonzalez replied.

Gonzalez testified that Ortiz had asked her for her assistance as he sought re-election to the county commissioner seat, and in later cross-examination by Luis Vera, Ortiz's attorney, she told the court that she had also worked for U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti, Bill White, Democratic candidate for governor; Val Verde County Judge Mike Fernandez, Texas Rep. Pete Gallego and Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 candidate James Fernandez in the March 2010 primary election.

Gonzalez testified Ortiz had given her a stack of applications for mail-in ballots to file on Precinct 4 voters' behalf, and said he had also provided her with 100 stamps with which to mail those applications.

But Gonzalez adamantly and repeatedly denied that she was in Ortiz's employ.

"I was not working for him. I was working for him as a volunteer," Gonzalez insisted.

Gonzalez denied that she had gone many voters' homes to check to see that they had received their ballots once she made the applications.

She claimed to have gone only to the homes of voters who called her and asked her for help.

Davis then went through the names of about two dozen voters and asked Gonzalez if she knew them.

After going through a handful of the names, and the questions about her involvement with each of them, Gonzalez said, "I don't feel well. I wish I could get this over with."

When the judge then called for a short break, Gonzalez rose to leave the witness stand.

As she stepped down from the stand, she appeared to collapse.

Shouts of "Somebody call 9-1-1" filled the courtroom, and the translator, Ortiz's attorney and one of the court bailiffs rushed to Gonzalez where she lay on the floor of the courtroom.

A team of firefighters with the Del Rio Fire and Rescue Department arrived a few minutes later, followed closely by a team of emergency medical personnel from Val Verde Regional Medical Center.

Gonzalez was checked, and after she insisted, "Esta bien" ("It's fine"), Davis continued questioning her about her involvement with specific voters.

Gonzalez replied she knew most of the persons "as voters."

In reply to Davis' questions, Gonzalez admitted to taking "about 10" carrier envelopes containing mail-in ballots to the post office, once voters had filled out their ballots and sealed them in those envelopes, but she insisted she did this "as a favor."

During his cross-examination, Vera asked her, "Why do you do this?"

"Because I'm interested in my community, and I'm interested in having good people help the community," Gonzalez replied.

Vera also questioned Gonzalez about her involvement in two prior election contest lawsuits, one between Dora Alcalá and Robert Garza over the race for Del Rio mayor, and the second between Edith Treviño and Joey Garcia for a seat on the local public school board.

Gonzalez testified she "learned what the law is" regarding the handling of carrier envelopes for mail-in ballots and charged that she saw members of the Flores campaign picking up carrier envelopes to place them in the mail for voters.

During his cross-examination, Vera asked Gonzalez if she needed a break.

"No, I just want this to be over," she said.

Vera asked Gonzalez if she believed the voters who testified that she had picked up their carrier envelopes to mail were lying.

"No," she said.

"Why do you say they're not lying?" Vera asked.

"Because they're not lying. They're confused, like I'm confused," Gonzalez said.

Davis, on re-direct, asked Gonzalez, "So if more than 50 voters say you did pick up their ballots and mail(ed) them, they're all confused?"

"Yes, because they are confusing the carrier envelopes with the (mail-in ballot) applications," Gonzalez said.

Saturday: The courtroom testimony of Gustavo Flores and Jesus "Cheo" Ortiz.

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