Ex-DA Nico LaHood punished by State Bar for incident involving new DA

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Paul Venema - Reporter, Misael Gomez - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Nicolas "Nico" LaHood was hit Monday with a yearlong probated suspension for an incident involving Joe Gonzales, the man who ousted him as Bexar County district attorney.

LaHood was accused in 2017 of threatening to “destroy” and “shut down” Gonzales' practice after he and his now-chief of litigation, Christian Henricksen, successfully got a judge to declare a mistrial in the case of their client, Miguel Martinez.

An evidentiary panel, after considering pleadings, evidence and arguments, found that LaHood committed professional misconduct, according to a report signed by the panel Monday. The report states that while representing a client, LaHood "used means that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third person."

LaHood was dealt a probated, yearlong suspension from practicing law, which means he is still eligible to practice but will have to abide by a number of conditions for a year or face revocation of his probation.

LaHood's probation began Monday and will conclude March 4, 2020. He is required, in part, to pay $9,700.92 to the State Bar of Texas for court costs. Should he appeal the judgment, he will have to pay an additional $4,750.

READ THE DISCIPLINARY DOCUMENTS HERE

The suspension stems from an incident involving Gonzales and Henricksen, who alleged that Bexar County prosecutors did not tell them that a prosecutor in its office “once had a sexual encounter with the star witness in the case,” according to a motion filed in 2017. It continued that the information was revealed “only after being ordered to do so.”

The jury had already been sworn in and the prosecution had already made its opening statement.

Court documents state that LaHood allegedly became “enraged” and threatened to “destroy and shut down the defense lawyer’s practice and make sure they never got hired on another case again in Bexar County.”

The court motion also claimed LaHood said he would do whatever it took and “he could always go back to private practice” and “would make more money as a defense attorney.”

LaHood has always denied those allegations, but the trial judge, Lori Valenzuela, who was also in that meeting, testified during a subsequent hearing that there were threats that she said could be viewed as official oppression.

LaHood maintained his position of innocence Wednesday, saying the evidentiary panel found that he did not make a threat.

“The panel heard all of the evidence and they found that I did not make a threat,” LaHood. “They essentially said that they didn’t believe that I made a threat, they didn’t believe that I did anything illegal and they didn’t believe that I was dishonest.”

He said “The bottom line is that I made a statement to the press that I shouldn’t have made during a murder trial.”

Gonzales said in an emailed statement that he is satisfied with the outcome.

Read the full statement below:

"I don't have any direct comment other than to say that I am satisfied with the outcome. This reaffirms my belief that the system works, especially regarding the State Bar's ability to police its members -- especially lawyers that are public officials. It is now time to move on. I will be focusing on my continued efforts at keeping this community safe."

Henricksen said via phone Tuesday that he was glad it was over and wished the incident itself never happened.

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