Well-known El Pasoans tried in U.S. Federal Court has become fairly routine in recent years.
Following years of public corruption cases making headlines, few have been as intriguing as Frank Apodaca Jr., the one-time president of Access Healthsource who at times attempted to delay hearings due to a brain injury.
Among other things, Apodaca faces accusations of bribery and giving kickbacks which resulted in his being charged with seven felonies including racketeering. The storyline of this case has ties to several school districts, the city and the county - all of whom were insured by Access.
On Monday Apodaca was inside federal Judge Frank Montalvo's courtroom in Downtown El Paso. What was said is anyone's guess unless you are a lawyer tied to the case, Apodaca or his wife because all other members of the public were asked to leave the courtroom including members of the media.
Apodaca's case is complex. It involves 10 other people: Marc Schwartz, Luther Jones, Gilbert Sanchez, David Escobar, Linda Chavez, Mickey Duntley, Willie Gandara Sr., Charlie Garcia, Ray Rodriguez and Larry Medina.
If the details weren't complicated enough, the case itself has been wrapped in a shroud of secrecy with more than 350 motions tied to the case dating back to 2010, most of which have been sealed and made unavailable to the media and public alike.
The hearing on Monday was no different. Initially set for 2 p.m. the case was pushed back by an hour. Around 3:10 p.m. the judge showed up and quickly entertained why the defendant's attorneys wanted the hearing sealed as confidential information, including conversations that would affect his client.
Debra Kanoff, the assistant U.S. attorney trying the, case made it known she did not agree with the request before Judge Montalvo cleared the courtroom adding she too may have to leave at some point in time given the sensitive information Apodaca could potentially discuss.
Court records show that government will soon have their evidence in this case available for the defense attorneys to view.
An order setting a pretrial hearing in August is the last available document that has not been sealed.
It was filed in late June. Since that time 10 sealed motions have been made leading up to Monday's hearing which Apodaca attended himself.
Upon leaving the courtroom, Apodaca said he was not able to speak about what happened behind closed doors.
The attorneys defending the case also declined to speak, while the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case said they too were asked to leave the court while items pertaining to attorney-client privilege were discussed.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2012 where every plaintiff is expected to attend.