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Sunday, November 25, 2007

NOT SO SWEET IN POTEET

I can’t think of any place in America farther from Washington, D.C. than Poteet, Texas, zip code 78065. The little farming town is 20 miles south of San Antonio, and less than 70 miles north of the Rio Grande. Poteet has a population of just 3,500, while the 20010 zip code, the central core our nation’s capital, is home to over 26,000 people, more than seven times the population of Poteet. D.C.’s population is about 57% African-American, while Poteet’s is 88% Hispanic, which in south Texas is called “White”. Average household income in the urban 20010 is $36,000 a year, while in rural Poteet the average income for a family is only $25,000. Poteet is known as the strawberry capital of Texas, while D.C. seems to grow nothing but a lot of hot air and red tape. Officially the 20010 zip has 26 registered sex offenders, a ratio of about 895 to one, while tiny rural religious Poteet has 29 registered sex offenders, a ratio of about 125 to one. Now, either something very odd is going on in Poteet or we are completely mistaken about what we think we know about sex offenders; who they are, what they do, and how to stop them from doing it again.
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What brought all of this to my attention was Poteet’s newest registered sex offender, its 3 term mayor, Mr. Lino Donanto. On Halloween ‘Hiz Honor’ cut a deal and pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent exposure and “no contest” to one count of indecent contact with a child younger then 17. The two girls in question were his daughters. The plea agreement requires that the mayor register as a “sex offender” and keep 1,000 feet away from any location where children congregate. And when the Atascosa County probation officers ran a tape measure between the entrance of City Hall and the Atascosa Boxing Club and Youth Center they found it “well within 200 feet”. So even showing up for work could get the mayor re-arrested.
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But part of the problem is the nature of the charges which Donanto pled to. They originally surfaced during a contentious 2005 divorce case, and his ex-wife, Aleida, admitted under cross examination that she has lied to the police in the past. Also, the alleged indecent exposure occurred once in 1996 and once in 2000, and the indecent contact charge involved “improper touching”, once, in 1997.
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Aledia testified that she lived in what the prosecutor described as a “…world of verbal…and physical abuse” And one of the girls (they are now 17 and 25) tearfully testified that Donanto would uncover them as they slept, remove his own clothes, and masturbate. Aleda testified that he began this behavior when the youngest child was 3 months old, and she testified that she had told the police chief about the abuse, beginning in 2000, but “her husband’s political connections” prevented her from pressing the case. The day the chief was to testify, Donanto accepted a plea bargain, and so did the prosecutor.
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And that plea is also part of the problem. By its terms the mayor must pay a $2,000 fine and do 400 hours of community service. And he will be on the “sex offenders” registry for 20 years. But the rest of the court’s judgment was labeled as “deferred adjudication” with 10 years probation, meaning that Donanto has not been officially convicted of his crime unless he violates the terms of his parole, such as coming within 1,000 feet of any where that children congregate.
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It’s a messy situation for an elected official. The Mayor was most recently re-elected this year, after his indictment and very public arrest by Texas Rangers while he was working in his auto repair shop. His repair shop and his position as Mayor, make him one of the most important and most respected citizens in this small town. Still the assumption was that Donanto would resign after his conviction. He had called a meeting of the council to do just that, but at the last minute he pulled a Larry Craig and changed his mind. He insists, "I did what was the best to my interests, as per my attorney," but he also insists that he did not molest his children. The mayor is staying put. City Councilman Larry Cantu says that although the council still has a quorum even if the Mayor doesn’t show up, “He needs to get out.” The situation, says Cantu, is “…not right for the citizens of Poteet”.
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Of course, Larry lost that last election to Donanto and he may be a little bitter. I suspected as much the minute that Cantu reminded everybody, as the trial started, that Donanto was “innocent until proven guilty”. What a hack politician thing to say. But since there is nothing in the city or state codes that would require the mayor to step down before his term runs out in May 2009, I guess Councilman Cantu is just screwed.
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Besides, with that high a percentage of citizen sex offenders, it was only a matter of time before one of them got elected mayor. Still, what the hell could be in the water of Poteet – besides high concentrations of insecticides and herbicides – that would produce sex offenders at ten times the rate they are created in the Babylon of Washington, D.C.? I thought that Babylon was supposed to be the source of moral decay, as opposed to the more natural, land and faith based lifestyles of farm country? Or was that just 4,000 year old propaganda from the Jewish controlled media, i.e. The Old Testament? Jesus Christ, of course it was!
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But I still wonder what kind of “kink-based life-styles” these strawberry heads are practicing down there on the farm. As Poteet citizen Jesse Ramirez put it, “Es una verguenza”. It’s a shame; yes, it is. But whose shame is it?
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Hon. Lino Z. Donato, Mayor
P.O. Box 378
Poteet, Texas 78065
(830) 742-3574 / FAX (830) 742-8747

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