Judge denies DA's request to have LaHood removed from case

Joe Gonzales claims LaHood's law firm has access to confidential information

By Paul Venema - Reporter, Misael Gomez - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Updated Wednesday:

DIstrict Judge Velia Meza issued a 7-page ruling, in which she said, "The trial court concludes that it does not have a valid reason under the law to interfere in the defendant's constituational right to the counsel of his choice."

Original story:

It is a case that the district attorney’s office says could affect public confidence in the criminal justice system.

A legal battle is brewing over whether a law firm that includes former District Attorney Nicholas “Nico” LaHood can represent a man who LaHood, as district attorney, was preparing to prosecute.

Current District Attorney Joe Gonzales has filed a motion asking that the LaHood law firm be disqualified to represent Michael Stoval in a family violence case.

During a hearing Monday, Assistant District Attorney Samantha DiMaio, referring to LaHood said, “He is taking steps to be actively involved in the same case that he briefed the prosecutor while serving the last days of his administration.”

During that time, she said, LaHood had already formed the law firm bearing his name.

Melissa Saenz, a prosecutor assigned to the Stoval case, testified that she had discussed the case with La Hood while he was still district attorney.

“There is an exchange of confidential communications that is going on in that office while he is serving as district attorney and while he is advertising for his private practice,” DiMaio testified.

Jason Goss, who is a partner in LaHood’s law firm, represents Stoval.

“At some point it’s not fair to have him form a relationship with a lawyer to the eve of trial and then wait until that point to file a motion,” Goss said.

“That feels like a weapon, a tactical weapon, being aimed at Mr. Stoval because the state does not want to have to dismiss this case,” he added.

Judge Velia Meza said that she will take the matter under advisement and will issue a ruling “in a few days.”

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