Saying he is four months behind in house payment and still can’t hire a lawyer, former Brownwood pastor Fernando Hernandez — indicted earlier for sexual abuse of a young child or children — left a 35th District Court hearing Monday with a freshly appointed lawyer and a reset on the state’s motion to increase Hernandez’s bond.
District Judge Steve Ellis appointed Jud Woodley as Hernandez’s attorney and reset the hearing for July 2, saying it was impossible to have an adversarial hearing when Woodley had been appointed to the case just minutes earlier.
Ellis had been planning to hear prosecutor Elisha Bird’s motion to raise Hernandez’s bond from $25,000 to $100,000. But Hernandez — who has been free on bond since August — showed up in court without a lawyer and said he hadn’t been able to sell land he owns in order to raise money for an attorney.
That’s when Ellis stopped the hearing and sent Hernandez, 51, to visit with indigent defense coordinator Nita Richardson. Ellis noted that Hernandez hadn’t previously qualified for a court-appointed lawyer because Hernandez had assets including land and vehicles.
Ellis wanted to know if Hernandez’s circumstances had changed to the point that Hernandez would quality for a court-appointed lawyer. “We’re still spinning this case. I’m tired of spinning it,” Ellis told Hernandez.
A few minutes later, Richardson entered the courtroom and told Ellis that Hernandez still did not qualify. Ellis said he was “overriding” Richardson and appointed Woodley as Hernandez’s lawyer.
“We’ve been rocking along … the bottom line is, you don’t have any funds to hire a lawyer,” Ellis told Hernandez. “Given the circumstances, I don’t have a lot of options.”
Bird filed a motion last month stating that CPS has put a family team plan in place that prohibits Hernandez from being in a residence with children overnight, and prohibits him from being unsupervised around any children at any time.
Hernandez was observed to be in the presence of several children unsupervised on May 12, the motion alleges.
Hernandez is accused in the indictment of committing four acts of sexual contact against three children between August 2010 and July 2018.
Hernandez was pastor of It’s A Challenge Church in Brownwood when he was arrested in July on warrants charging him with continuous sexual abuse of a child and indecency with a child, authorities said earlier.
At Monday’s hearing, Ellis asked Hernandez, “are you still a preacher?”
“No,” Hernandez replied.
“How are you living?” Ellis asked.
“I still have some supporters,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez noted that Ellis had previously given him six months to hire a lawyer. Ellis noted that three months have passed and Hernandez’s economic circumstances have actually gotten worse.
Before Ellis stopped the hearing to appoint Woodley, Hernandez tried to tell Ellis about a “misunderstanding” that had led to the allegation in the state’s motion to increase bond.
Ellis would not allow Hernandez to continue talking about the matter.
Hernandez said some people have looked at the land he has for sale but no one has agreed to buy the land.
Hernandez earlier told Texas Ranger Jason Shea he did not sexually assault anyone, a complaint filed by Shea in the Brown County Courthouse states.