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A collection of my best clips.

Anger, passion drive debate over more overtime pay for California farmworkers

By Jazmine Ulloa
Los Angeles Times

Before the roosters in her backyard start to crow, Lourdes Cardenas rouses from bed, dresses for work in a worn T-shirt and jeans and packs a lunch under the dim fluorescent lights of her sparse kitchen.

For more than 11 years, Cardenas, 53, has picked grapes, peaches and strawberries in fields outside of Fresno. The hard labor makes her muscles ache. The sun casts spells of exhaustion, and the nearly $25,000 she brings in a year — cutting vines 10 hours a day, six days a week — barely makes ends meet.

“We live paycheck to paycheck,” she says. “We can’t save. We can’t provide a better future for ourselves or our families.”
Full story.

Victims’ families wrestle with grief as they weigh the death penalty on the ballot

By Jazmine Ulloa
Los Angeles Times

On a cool afternoon in October, Sandra Friend sits near a patch of green clover outside her small country home near Yuba City, thinking of her late son as the wind rustles through the trees. Friend, 43, says she wants “California voters to know what kind of offenders are on death row,” men like Robert Boyd Rhoades, who sodomized, tortured and killed 8-year-old Michael Lyons two decades ago.

She recalled that investigators said the wounds her son endured were deliberate: Rhoades stabbed the 63-pound boy 70 to 80 times with a fisherman’s knife and kept him alive for hours.

“From the very first inflicted wound to Michael, it was 10 hours to the last one,” Friend said. “For a grown man to inflict that kind of painful torture on a child — he got the right sentence. He got the only sentence that would bring any justice.”
Full story.
Full death penalty coverage.

Battling Islamic State’s online threat

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

Rahatul Khan, his friends and family say, did not have a bad bone in his body.

He was a tall 19-year-old with serious eyes, an aspiring lawyer who studied government at the University of Texas, and who was known for his compassion and intellectual curiosity.

At charity events, Khan pushed his father to stay a little longer and give a little more. At his North Austin mosque, he often set up tables and supervised the younger children. And when his mother was about to quit her job as a psychiatrist at Fort Hood, burned out from a long commute and the weight of other people’s pain, it was Khan who encouraged her to keep going, she said, reminding her the soldiers needed her help.
Full story.

Domestic violence:
New laws, same old cycle

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

With eight convictions for family violence offenses, Cruz Ramirez Jr. was charged with a felony after he surprised his girlfriend at work one day in October 2013. She told officers he grabbed her by the hair and shoved her into a stairwell, then punched her twice in the chest and shoved her to the ground, police records show.

But a year after his October 2013 arrest, the couple had reconciled, the felony charge was dropped, and Ramirez pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced in January 2015 to one year in jail.

The Ramirez case offers a snapshot of what has become routine in Travis County criminal courts, an American-Statesman investigation shows.
Full story.

Drug court failing black offenders

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

When Travis County created its drug court in 1993, the model was innovative. The program sought to divert black offenders away from the criminal justice system, offering defendants with substance abuse issues treatment instead of time in prison.

The shift in strategy became part of a rare bipartisan push for similar specialty courts across the state after a decade of tough-on-crime policies.

But an American-Statesman investigation has found that as the Travis County drug court has embarked on an overhaul, the program is shutting out disadvantaged groups, and its leaders say they don’t know why.
Full story.
 
 
 
 

Indictment solves mystery of socialite couple’s disappearance

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

She was the sister of a Mexican ex-governor: a woman with a bold sense of style and the looks of a television starlet. He introduced himself as a Mexican businessman but divulged nothing about his business or how he made his millions.

The couple had a modernist, white house built with lofty glass doors and a pool in the Preserve at Lost Gold Cave, a small, gated community in the Westlake area. They played hosts to other Austin socialites and invited guitarists from all over Latin America to perform intimate concerts in their spacious living room.
Full story.

Cartels’ influence in Texas growing in size, complexity

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

The operation that federal authorities say the Zetas used to filter millions of dirty dollars through the U.S. horse racing industry started with an old formula: drugs go north, masses of cash go south.

But like many crime organizations across Mexico, the vicious gang has grown into a sophisticated, transnational enterprise trafficking in more than just illicit narcotics. So, too, have evolved its financial arms in Texas and across the United States.
Full story.

Major narco leaders not among FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted?

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán – the man labeled the world’s most powerful drug trafficker — is not among the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

Neither is his rival, Heriberto Lazcano, though he is said to run one of the most vicious illicit networks to move tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. Nor is Miguel Ángel Treviño, believed to be Lazcano’s second in command.
Full story.

Does shipping drug cartel heads north work?

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Express-News

MEXICO CITY — There were 15 of them, some in tan jumpsuits, all in shackles. It took three flights and throngs of law enforcement officers to transfer them.

Major players in the Mexican underworld, they landed on U.S. soil Jan. 20, 2007, to face charges from Texas to New York, from Colorado to California. Among them was Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, one of the most ruthless and feared drug lords in the Western Hemisphere.
Full story.

She still wears black

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Magazine

Sgt. Yvonne Vann wants to testify. She wants to tell the jury what was taken, what she lost in the early hours of May 28, 2011, when authorities allege 42-year-old Mark Anthony Gonzales, intoxicated and on antidepressants, opened ambush-style fire on Bexar County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Kenneth Vann, her colleague and husband.

A veteran and sheriff deputy for almost 24 years, Kenneth, 48, had been waiting in a marked patrol car at a red light in east San Antonio when he was attacked. He died at the scene, and the slaying ignited a massive investigation that involved local and federal agencies and garnered national headlines.
Full story.

Convict couldn’t handle freedom

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Express-News

Most inmates want out of the pen. Randall Lee Church burned a house down to get back inside.

Released in April after years of incarceration, he could not adjust. “Everything had gone fast forward without me,” he said in a recent interview at Bexar County Jail.
Full story.

On fast-changing East Riverside, some residents are squeezed out

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman

Onestino Vega was among dozens of tenants evacuated from Las Palmas Apartments last year after a resident heard a loud cracking sound and city inspectors found a walkway in danger of collapsing.

As the Southeast Austin property changed owners and underwent renovations, Vega and his two roommates moved down the street to a one-bedroom unit at Vista Lago Apartments. It was a dingy space with battered kitchen cabinets, disintegrating countertops and holes in the baseboards that Vega filled with construction foam to keep roaches and rats out.
Full story.