Teen Inmate's Sex Abuse Trial Begins
Published : Tuesday, 20 Apr 2010, 12:04 PM CDT
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL Associated Press Writer

Ray Brookins, the former assistant superintendent at the Texas Youth Commission's West Texas State School, is being tried in Odessa on charges alleging he sexually assaulted young inmates.

ODESSA, Texas - A former Texas juvenile jail administrator accused of sexually abusing a teenage inmate looked for a victim no one would believe, a state prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday.

Ray Brookins, the former assistant superintendent at the Texas Youth Commission's West Texas State School, is being tried in Odessa on charges alleging he sexually assaulted young inmates.

"The perfect predator looks for a victim no one will believe," Assistant Attorney General Ralph Guerrero said told jurors in his opening statement. "He picked the wrong victim."

Brookins' lawyer, Bob Garcia Jr., countered in his opening statements that the case hinges on the word of a one-time juvenile inmate who's now jailed in state prison.

Brookins is was indicted in 2007 on charges alleging he had sexual contact with at least one male inmate. His lawyer, Bob Garcia Jr., has repeatedly declined to discuss the case.

A jury of seven men and five women was selected Monday.

Brookins faces two counts of improper sexual activity with a person in custody and two counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student.

Lt. Brian Burzynski, a Texas Ranger who initially investigated the allegations in 2005, said Tuesday he was doubtful of a tip about rampant sexual abuses at the remote jail until speaking with the victim.

"(The victim) was specific in what he described," Burzynski said of the victim's statement. He added that the specific descriptions from the victim added to his credibility.

Brookins and former principal John Paul Hernandez were first investigated by the Texas Rangers in 2005. A trial date has not been set for Hernandez, who also pleaded not guilty.

A detailed report from Texas Rangers investigators, which wasn't acted upon for two years, said Brookins and Hernandez summoned inmates from their dorms late at night to vacant conference rooms, offices and ball fields for sex over a span of at least two years.

Investigators described late-night encounters involving oral sex, masturbation and pornographic videos. Some of the teen inmates, investigators say, were also threatened with retaliation. In all, authorities believe at least 13 boys were sexually abused.

An internal investigation revealed that several employees at the Pyote jail complained to their bosses or other TYC officials, but that the complaints were largely ignored. Brookins and Hernandez were allowed to quietly resign amid the Rangers' investigation.

The allegations became public in 2007 when the Rangers report was brought to the attention of lawmakers in Austin and prompted an outcry from legislators and parents of TYC inmates.

Widespread allegations of abuses and inmates being held beyond their sentences at TYC jails across the state quickly emerged, and state officials launched an agency-wide probe aimed at rooting out problem employees.

TYC's top two administrators lost their jobs. The investigation also led to the release of at least 550 inmates who had completed their minimum sentences and hadn't caused trouble behind bars. The West Texas state school is set to close later this year.

Ward County District Attorney Randall W. "Randy" Reynolds was accused of failing to act on the 2005 report, and the case was taken over by state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office. Abbott promised swift justice. But the cases stalled in the court system.

Last year, Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland said prosecutors had repeatedly asked for trial dates but the requests went unanswered.