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Man injured in fatal Saturday crash on Galveston files $1M lawsuit

GALVESTON

A man who was injured in the Saturday car crash that killed wrecker driver Gary Dubose has filed a lawsuit against a Galveston woman implicated in the wreck.

Galveston attorney Jonathan Zendeh Del filed a lawsuit Monday against Dianna Hoyler, 52, of Galveston, on behalf of Eulogio Soto, seeking more than $1 million in damages, court records show.

Soto was struck by a state trooper’s patrol car after it was struck by a vehicle that had swerved off the Interstate 45 service road, Zendeh Del said.

Soto, who was in the hospital Monday with seven broken ribs and two cracked vertebrates, had been standing outside his car speaking with the trooper when he was struck and severely injured, the lawsuit asserts.

Hoyler has not been charged in connection with the crash and crash investigators had not named her as the driver of the car that left the road.

The driver of that car was still in the hospital Monday afternoon and officials with the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office said they planned to file charges upon her release.

“We have not determined which charge at this time,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gurski said.

Dubose, 58, the state trooper and several others were near The Daily News’ building just off the freeway service road because the trooper was citing Soto for a traffic violation, officials said.

The woman driving south along the service road swerved into the grass and, in some order, struck Dubose and slammed into the back of the trooper’s vehicle, officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

Dubose’s coworkers said he had been standing behind and was hit by the trooper’s vehicle, but department officials said he had been between the woman’s vehicle and the trooper’s car.

An official accident report won’t be complete for several days, DPS Sgt. Stephen Woodard said Monday.

Dubose died at 10:05 p.m., shortly after the crash, officials with the medical examiner’s office said. The crash happened about 9:30 p.m., officials said.

The woman was transported to a hospital emergency room with injuries that didn’t appear to be life-threatening, officials said.

Former coworkers gathered at a roadside memorial Monday described Dubose as good-humored.

“He’d either make you laugh, or make you cry,” said Ken Ferguson, owner of Ken’s Towing & Collision Service, where Dubose worked on and off for about 22 years.


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Accused Santa Fe shooter makes first court appearance

GALVESTON

For the first time since his arrest on May 18, 2018, in connection with the most deadly school shooting in Texas history, Dimitrios Pagourtzis appeared in an open courtroom Monday.

Wearing a green Galveston County Jail jumpsuit, chained around the waist and handcuffed, Pagourtzis, 19, was led into the courtroom minutes before the start of a hearing during which attorneys argued whether his trial, still months away, should be moved out of Galveston County.

Pagourtzis is accused of killing 10 people and shooting 14 others inside Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018.

He is charged with capital murder of multiple persons and aggravated assault of a public servant and has been held without bond since his arrest.

In a hearing punctuated at times by a passing thunderstorm, Pagourtzis’ lawyer argued he should receive the same treatment as others accused of mass murder.

The trials of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, serial killer Ted Bundy and Washington D.C. sniper Lee Malvo all were moved out of the jurisdictions where they happened because of concern about whether the accused would receive fair trials, defense attorney Nick Poehl said.

With that comparison in mind, Pagourtzis’ trial should be moved out of Galveston County, Poehl argued.

“We have this process the code envisions, that certain cases, because of their notoriety, their emotional impact, simply present too great a challenge to afford a defendant due process,” Poehl said.

Poehl pointed in particular to social media comments as evidence that Galveston County’s jury pool was tainted with people who had made up their minds about the Pagourtzis case.

Some of the commenters said Pagourtzis should be killed or burned, Poehl said.

“This is the community,” Poehl said. “This is them telling us what they’re thinking.”

Arguing against the motion, Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said Poehl hadn’t proven the social media comments about Pagourtzis came from people in Galveston County, and even if they had, it didn’t prove those people wouldn’t act fairly if chosen for a jury.

Accurate local news reporting about factual events was not reason enough to claim a jury pool was tainted, Roady said. Local officials had also been successful at keeping many details, such as video evidence and detailed descriptions of what happened inside the school that day, out of the news, he said.

“There are no videos out there,” Roady said. “There are no recordings; there are no detailed statements.”

His office and other agencies had resisted news media requests seeking to make those things public, he said.

“The fact that there was a lot of media coverage is not enough,” Roady said.

Judge John Ellisor planned to make a decision about whether to move the trial by the end of the week, he said.

The hearing was notable because it was Pagourtzis’ first appearance in a courtroom since the shooting happened. In January, he appeared at a hearing by video conference.

Pagourtzis was silent as the attorneys made their arguments, and did not interact with any of the dozens of people, many of them victims or families of victims, that attended the hearing.

As he walked in, one person sobbed audibly.

A bailiff watching over the group in the jury assembly room announced that people who were unable to control themselves would be asked to leave.

No one left.


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HUD releases $652 million for flood mitigation projects

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved $652 million in disaster aid for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Texas, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday.

The money is in addition to $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery aid the federal housing department already had approved for programs in Texas, officials said.

Carson and Abbott met in Washington mid-day, then made the announcement jointly during a telephone news conference.

“I know you agree that recovery can’t ever happen fast enough and these dollars take years to draw down, but HUD will do everything it can to make the process go smoothly,” Carson said.

Rules related to applying for and allocating the money would be published “in coming weeks,” Carson said.

The $652 million in additional support is designated for “unmet needs,” Carson and Abbott said.

The Texas General Land Office is the administrator of federal disaster recovery funds for Hurricane Harvey, to be managed locally by area councils like the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Abbott said.

“We have two goals,” Abbott said. “One, to help everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey to be able to rebuild. We’re assembling resources to get that job done.

“Second, we want to make sure we rebuild in ways such that the region will be better than before the storms hit.”

Both Abbott and Carson emphasized a need to reduce future flooding.

Abbott said rebuilding with resilience in mind will happen because of the vision of Carson and other members of the federal administration to “use effective hazard mitigation strategies to avoid floods like we saw in Houston, Beaumont and Orange County.”

Rules will be issued soon for mitigation programs, Abbott said.

“We have at the ready literally billions of dollars of funding, and we need applications for projects by local governments to get these projects done as quickly as possible,” he said.

“We want this to be the model for other communities to respond to disaster.”

A reporter asked whether the mitigation plans would take climate change into consideration.

Abbott replied that he will take every factor into consideration to make Texas as resilient as possible.

A reporter asked whether the secretary or the governor was concerned that disaster recovery money could be taken away for border security under President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

“These moneys are very carefully prescribed, so I wouldn’t worry about that,” Carson said.


Coming Wednesday

The Port of Galveston presents a long-awaited master plan outlining its hopes for future growth.


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Galveston County pulls drainage district off legislative agenda

GALVESTON

Two weeks after a split commissioners court voted to urge state legislators to help create a new drainage district in Galveston County, a slightly less split court voted to walk back that idea.

In a 4-1 vote Monday, commissioners removed the proposal from its legislative agenda. Only Commissioner Stephen Holmes voted against the removal. He did not explain why.

Commissioner Ken Clark on Feb. 12 pitched the idea to consolidate parts of Galveston County into a single large drainage district to create an entity that could work with other, already existing districts to plan and fund large-scale drainage projects.

The proposal was met with resistance from the get-go as Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he would not support an idea that would increase taxes to county residents. He and commissioner Darrell Apffel voted against adding the item, and then insisted that the county’s paid lobbyists note the division when they talk to lawmakers.

It’s unclear whether any lawmaker was briefed on the idea, and no legislation has been filed about creating a consolidated local drainage district.

Henry on Monday proposed taking it off the lobbying list for two reasons.

First, he said, if county voters were interested in creating the district, there was no need for the legislature to act, because a group of 25 people can petition for the issue to be put to a vote.

“We don’t need Austin,” Henry said. “If the voters of the new proposed drainage district want to petition the court to create one, they can do that without any participation from Austin.”

Henry also said he felt Clark had misled officials with claims that state Sen. Larry Taylor’s office supported the idea. Henry said his office checked with Taylor’s and was told that wasn’t true.

“He said you came to him with this idea,” Henry said. “He was not a proponent of this idea.”

During the Feb. 11 workshop meeting where Clark first proposed the drainage district, he prefaced his pitch by saying he and Taylor had gotten “into a discussion” about how the state might fund the maintenance and operation of a coastal spine that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing.

Part of Clark’s pitch was that a large drainage district could also be responsible for operating the coastal spine.

Clark said he didn’t want to get into a tit-for-tat with Henry about his discussions with Taylor, and said he never explicitly claimed he had Taylor’s support.

“I do think that he wanted me to contact his office,” Clark said.

Clark said the senator’s office had pointed out that the issue could be prompted by a local petition, which is why he voted for moving it from the agenda.

Clark defended his proposal as a way of achieving meaningful work toward large drainage projects, but said he had no plans to lead a petition to get it on the county’s ballot.

“I think what we need to do is have some additional discussion as opposed to having a petition,” Clark said.