Brownwood Police Chief Virgil Cowin knew about complaints of inappropriate behavior on the part of then-Sgt. Vince Ariaz in 2004 but did nothing about them, an Austin law firm claims in an April 15 letter to Brownwood City Attorney Pat Chesser.
A jury would be “offended by Chief Cowin’s cavalier dismissal of the complaints … and his complete failure to investigate these allegations,” attorney Scott Ozmun wrote in the letter, which asked the city to consider negotiating a settlement in lieu of a civil lawsuit.
Ozmun, of Whitehurst, Harkness, Ozmun and Brees, represents the family of a Brownwood Police Explorer Ariaz was accused of having sexual contact with in multiple incidents beginning May 24, 2007 and ending July 17, 2007, the day Ariaz was arrested.
Ariaz was sentenced on May 27, 2008 to three concurrent 20-year prison terms for having sexual contact with two female teenage Explorers.
Visiting Judge Don Lane sentenced Ariaz in a plea bargain after Ariaz pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault of a child. He pleaded no contest to one count of indecency with a child.
Chesser released a copy of Ozmun’s letter to the Bulletin Thursday after the Texas Attorney General’s Office ruled that the letter is subject to public disclosure. Names of Explorers are redacted in the copy Chesser released.
Ozmun wrote that he will recommend “an early mediation … if the city recognizes the serious nature of these claims and is willing to settle for significant compensation.”
Chesser said the matter has been referred to the city’s liability insurance carrier and a mediation session is scheduled for July 25 in Austin. Chesser said he does not know how much money might be involved in settling the matter.
Cowin, speaking by phone from his office, declined immediate comment but said he plans to release a written statement later.
Ozmun’s letter claims that Ariaz began to “prey on a young Explorer” in 2004. The girl’s boyfriend saw “inappropriate text messages” Ariaz had sent her. Ariaz told the girl in the messages that he wanted to take her to a hotel in Killeen where they could have sex, Ozmun’s letter claims.
The boyfriend went to the Police Department to make a complaint, Ozmun’s letter claims.
Sgt. Tracey Edgar, now known as Delgado, contacted Cowin about the boyfriend’s complaint, the letter claims. “Chief Cowin told Officer Edgar not to write up a report and not to mention the complaint to anyone else. He told her he would handle it ‘internally,’” the letter claims.
Ozmun claimed in the letter that the girl and her boyfriend each met with Cowin and that Cowin took no action.
On Dec. 26, 2004, Ariaz fondled an Explorer, an incident that became the subject of a later indictment against Ariaz, the letter claims. It was unclear from Ozmun’s letter whether the Explorer in the Dec. 26 incident is the same Explorer referenced in the other 2004 incidents involving text messages.
In January 2007, Edgar reported the 2004 incidents to then-Sgt. Dennis Weathermon, who has since retired, the letter claims. Ozmun’s letter did not reference Weathermon’s specific role but said “no action was taken … thus Ariaz was free to continue his deviant behavior.”
Arrest affidavits related to Ariaz, however, state that Weathermon contacted Texas Ranger Nick Hanna about the allegations. Hanna interviewed the girl on Jan. 31 and began an investigation, arrest affidavits state.
While investigating those allegation, Hanna and other law enforcement officials realized Ariaz had targeted another Explorer, affidavits state.
That Explorer was the subject of a multiple-count indictment, Ozmun’s letter claims.
In July 2007, law enforcement officials including Brownwood police, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Ranger Nick Hanna arrested Ariaz at the Brownwood Coliseum Annex in the company of one of the Explorers.