AUSTIN (KXAN) — Alan Dieguez walked into the Williamson County District Courthouse on May 8, 2019 facing two to 20 years in a Texas prison. The El Paso police officer had an agreement with prosecutors that would’ve traded his prison time for probation.
Part of that agreement included Dieguez surrendering his peace officer license for life and other charges in the case were dismissed.
There was still a chance Dieguez was going to jail for pleading guilty to an intoxication manslaughter charge after a crash he caused in June 2016 killed Dane Rutter. The judge approved the plea deal Dieguez and the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office negotiated.
But the judge added a 120-day jail sentence during the May 2019 hearing. Dieguez got credit for two days’ time served.
Nearly two years later, Dieguez still has not served a single day of that sentence.
‘Snake bitten’ prosecution
While investigating Dieguez’s sentencing and plea agreement, KXAN discovered neither Williamson County nor El Paso County jail records show the former officer ever reported to jail. Not a day served in nearly two years following his sentence.
Dieguez was running somewhere around 100 miles an hour when he slammed into the back of Dane Rutter’s 18-wheeler on Interstate 35 in Jarrell, a small town north of Georgetown. The force of the crash ripped the engine from Dieguez’s car.
The engine and debris from the crash caused more damage. Passing trucks hit the debris and crash reports show the debris caused another vehicle to hit and kill Rutter. Rutter was getting out of his 18-wheeler to check on Dieguez, DPS wrote in a report.
Dieguez was drunk.
The Texas Department of Public Safety’s crash report shows Dieguez’s blood alcohol content was 0.179, more than twice the 0.08 legal limit in Texas. On the day of the crash, June 21, 2016, Troopers charged Dieguez with driving while intoxicated.
That charge was later dismissed in the plea agreement.
Then, six months later, a Williamson County grand jury indicted Dieguez on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. Dieguez’s older brother, Roman Dieguez, was riding in the car when the crash happened and suffered injuries. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss this charge, as well.
Neither charge, though, addressed Rutter’s death.
It took more than two years for investigators to charge Dieguez in connection to the trucker’s death. Although Dieguez didn’t hit and kill Rutter, the grand jury indicted him on an intoxication manslaughter charge on Oct. 23, 2018.
The case was “snake bitten” from the start, according to Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick.
“In Mr. Dieguez’s case it was really complicated; it’s very unlike most cases that we come across in that while he was not technically the person that killed the victim in this case, his actions set in place a chain of events that led to the victim’s death,” Dick told KXAN.
Prosecutors had a problem: arguing direct “causation” on Dieguez’s part — something prosecutors would’ve had a tough time convincing a jury of if the case went to trial. That wrinkle meant Dick’s office knew there was a chance of not getting a conviction.
“So it complicated it from a legal standpoint. Whereas if he were the direct cause, the direct — not only legal but practical cause — this case would’ve been a lot simpler. So really his case was more complicated by the facts of his case but not so much his relationship being a police officer or not, at least from the state’s perspective,” Dick said.
Still, prosecutors knew Dieguez had a bargaining tool: his Texas peace officer license. Getting that license in a plea agreement meant Dieguez could never work in law enforcement again.
Not only in Texas, but anywhere in the United States.
Williamson County District Court Judge Stacy Mathews sentenced Dieguez on May 8, 2019. The 120 -day sentence was mandated by law, Mathews said. However, the judge had discretion over when and where Dieguez served his time.
‘Deferred jail sentence’
Although Alan Dieguez was sentenced to a jail term in May 2019, he didn’t leave court in handcuffs and never walked through the doors of the Williamson County jail that day or anytime since.
Mathews allowed Dieguez to wait a year before serving his sentence. The judge let Dieguez return home to El Paso, because he had a baby on the way and was working on finishing up an associated degree at a local college.
Dieguez’s probation sentence was for eight years, and he can serve the 120 days at any point during his probation, which ends in 2027.
The judge allowed Dieguez to serve his sentence in parts, setting his reporting date for June 21 of each year. Dieguez was supposed to report to the Williamson County jail in June 2020, but because of the pandemic, the jail closed its doors to outsiders and to those serving jail time as part of probation.
The jail reopened and neither the court nor Williamson County’s adult probation office gave Dieguez a new date to report to jail.
“That hasn’t happened yet,” Dieguez told KXAN investigator Jody Barr in a phone call in early April when asked why jail records show he hasn’t served his sentence.
Barr emailed Judge Mathews on April 7 asking about the Dieguez sentence. The judge did not respond to the questions, but that same day the judge scheduled a hearing in the case.
Dieguez’s surrender: June 21, 2021
Williamson County records show the last hearing clocked into Dieguez’s case file happened May 8, 2019. Nothing has happened in the case since.
Not until April 14, 2021 — just one week after KXAN asked the judge about the sentence — was Dieguez’s case discussed inside a Texas courtroom. Mathews allowed KXAN into the hearing with a camera but would not allow audio recordings of the hearing.
Dieguez was not in the courtroom and instead joined the hearing over an internet stream from El Paso.
Dieguez’s attorney spent several minutes defending Dieguez’s performance while under probation. The former officer has not committed any new crimes or violated probation since his sentencing in May 2019.
“He has exhibited; responded well to conditions he’s been given, no threat to society and working parent, husband and taxpaying member of society. His response I think has been exceptional,” Steve Brittain said during the April 14 hearing.
Brittain suggested the judge modify the sentence to allow Dieguez to serve a more significant community service or even an added fine in lieu of serving jail time.
Judge Mathews would not entertain that.
“The 120 days; 118 days will be served in custody,” Mathews told Brittain, noting the 120-day sentence was mandated by law in a plea to this particular charge. “In this case, I just think the jail time is state-ordered for a reason, and I don’t supplant my opinion for what the legislature says it is,” Mathews said.
Brittain asked for another delay in Dieguez’s reporting date, because the former officer had not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, “Jail is still the most dangerous place you could go, not only with health but health in general,” Dieguez’s attorney said.
Brittain asked the judge to not order Dieguez’s reporting date to start until the former officer is fully vaccinated.
“I think it’s not unreasonable in light of all the changes because of this pandemic to have somebody who’s responding to probation the way he has to have a reasonable amount of time to report,” Brittain argued.
Mathews set Dieguez’s annual reporting date for June 21. It’s the day of the crash and the day Dane Rutter lost his life. The judge explained that date “has impact” for Rutter’s family and for Dieguez to
“think about” what happened.
Mathews issued her ruling from the bench during the April 14 hearing, once again not sending Dieguez straight to jail. The judge cited Dieguez’s continued adherence to his probation and testimony from Dieguez’s side showing that he’s got another baby on the way and that the former officer now owns his own roofing business.
Dieguez said taking him away from his business for a four-month sentence would damage his family financially.
“The last thing I’d want is for anyone to lose their job,” Mathews said during the hearing.
The judge warned Dieguez if he didn’t serve all 118 days before his probation ends in 2027, the court would extend his probation until the full sentence is served.
The order requires Dieguez to surrender to the Williamson County jail on June 21, 2021. A decision on the number of days Dieguez will serve at that time was left up to him. Williamson County’s probation office gave Dieguez a week to decide the length of his first jail stay.
This article originally appeared on KXAN Austin