That Judge Attacked by Donald Trump? He’s Faced a Lot Worse

Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the United States District Court in San Diego.

For much of a year, Gonzalo P. Curiel, then a federal prosecutor in California, lived officially in hiding.

He hunkered down for a while on a naval base and in other closely guarded locations under the protection of United States marshals. Even his siblings did not know exactly where he was at times.

The reason: In a secretly taped conversation inside a San Diego prison, a man accused of being a gunman for a Mexican drug cartel said that he had received permission from his superiors to have Mr. Curiel assassinated.

“It was kind of scary,” said Mr. Curiel’s brother Raul. “He had to be protected. He always had one or two bodyguards with him.”

Nearly 20 years later, Gonzalo Curiel, now a federal judge, is being targeted in a very different way.

The presiding judge in a lawsuit filed by former students of Trump University, he has been called a “hater” of Mr. Trump by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee himself. At a rally last week, Mr. Trump said the judge “happens to be, we believe, Mexican,” suggesting that he was biased because of Mr. Trump’s calls to build a wall along the border to prevent illegal immigration. Angry supporters have been calling the judge’s chambers.

Mr. Trump repeated his argument in an interview on Thursday. “I’m building the wall, I’m building the wall,” Mr. Trump said. “I have a Mexican judge. He’s of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things.”

A family photo of Gonzalo Curiel, second from right, with his siblings, from left, Raul, Antonio and Maria. Credit via Raul Curiel
A family photo of Gonzalo Curiel, second from right, with his siblings, from left, Raul, Antonio and Maria. Credit via Raul Curiel

While Judge Curiel has declined to discuss the case publicly, those who know him best say he is handling the unfriendly glare of the Trump case with the resolve that got him through his toughest days as a prosecutor.

Judge Curiel, 62, was born in East Chicago, Ind., to parents who had emigrated from Mexico. Raul Curiel said their father, Salvador, arrived in Arizona as a laborer in the 1920s, eventually receiving citizenship and becoming a steelworker. Their parents were married in Mexico in 1946, and their mother, Francisca, became a citizen after joining her husband in the United States.

Gonzalo Curiel went to Catholic school, fell in love with music and played the guitar in a band before following in the footsteps of his older brother, Antonio, and turning to law.

The Curiels lived in a diverse section of East Chicago called Indiana Harbor, where blacks, whites and Hispanics lived and worked together. Discrimination was rarely an issue, Raul Curiel said, but the family did face it on occasion. He recalled Gonzalo being turned away from a wedding venue in the 1970s because of his Afro hairstyle.

After graduating from Indiana University’s law school, Judge Curiel worked in private practice in Indiana and California. In 1989, he became an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of California, a job that immersed him in the war on drugs.

Judge Curiel was a hard-charging prosecutor at a time when the American authorities were trying to help Mexico confront the Arellano Félix brothers, the heads of a murderous cartel that controlled a torrent of narcotics coming into the Western United States. In a period when Mexico was reluctant to send its drug lords for trial in the United States, Mr. Curiel’s job involved working with informants and sometimes-corrupt Mexican officials to win convictions in this country and in Mexico.

In one 1990s case, when he was pushing to extradite two men accused of being Arellano gunmen to Mexico, he found himself defending witness testimony against the men that had most likely been obtained through torture by the Mexican police.

“The government is not here to deny there is a possibility of torture,” Mr. Curiel told a federal judge. “But the forum for those allegations to be aired is the government of Mexico.”

The Arellano-Félix cartel kept Mr. Curiel in its sights. One of the suspected gunmen, according to court filings, was recorded in prison saying he “had requested and received permission from the leaders of the Arellano cartel to have Curiel murdered,” forcing Mr. Curiel to live for a while under guard.

He and Mr. Vega, whose father also was Mexican, met regularly with their counterparts across the border. Mr. Vega said their ability to speak Spanish and their Mexican roots were helpful, ultimately leading to the first extradition of a suspected Mexican drug kingpin to the United States in 2001.

Judge Curiel was appointed to the bench in San Diego in 2007 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. President Obama nominated him to the federal bench in late 2011, and he was confirmed by the Senate the following year. Judge Curiel, whose parents are deceased, is married to a probation official and has a young daughter.

For his family, the attacks on their heritage have not gone unnoticed. Raul Curiel said that Mr. Trump was “ignorant” for calling his brother Mexican, noting that they were born in the United States. He said that he speaks to his brother regularly and that the most frustrating part of the Trump episode were the questions about his professionalism.

“Trump called him a hater, and regardless of whether he is or not, that has nothing to do with how he’s doing his job,” Raul Curiel said.

Mr. Trump and his supporters have said that Judge Curiel is treating him unfairly in the case, in which some former students of Trump University claim they paid thousands of dollars for worthless real estate classes. Mr. Trump’s supporters have pointed to Judge Curiel’s affiliation with La Raza Lawyers of California, a Latino bar association that Mr. Trump asserts is an advocacy group, and to his appointment by Mr. Obama as evidence of a conflict of interest.

In the interview on Thursday, Mr. Trump said that Judge Curiel also had a conflict of interest because he was friends with one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers; that lawyer told The Wall Street Journal that they were federal prosecutors in the same office but had never seen each other socially.

Despite citing the judge’s heritage as a source of the conflict, Mr. Trump said that as president he would have no problem appointing Mexican-American judges.

“I would love to,” he said. “I would do it in an instant.”

Judge Curiel is allowing the case to go to trial, and he recently ordered the unsealing of documents that included testimony from former managers calling the classes a “lie” and a “scheme.” (He later ordered some of the documents temporarily resealed so that some personal information could be redacted.) In the unsealing order, he noted that Mr. Trump had “placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue.”

Experts in legal ethics say that seeking to discredit a judge is not a winning strategy and that the suggestion that Judge Curiel could not treat a case fairly because of his ethnicity raises questions about Mr. Trump’s ability to appoint judges.

Deborah L. Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School and the founding director of the university’s Center on Ethics, said that calls for Judge Curiel to step down from a case because of his Mexican roots were akin to saying that Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, should never have been able to decide civil rights cases.

“If race were a disqualifying factor, nobody could preside over these cases,” Ms. Rhode said.

Mr. Vega, now a corporate lawyer who was the best man at Judge Curiel’s wedding, said he did not think that the attacks by Mr. Trump would taint the judge’s approach to the case.

But, remembering when his friend, then a prosecutor, arrived at his house for a barbecue flanked by bodyguards, Mr. Vega noted the irony of Mr. Trump’s criticizing someone who had risked his

life to slow the flow of drugs coming from Mexico into the United States — an issue that is dear to Mr. Trump.A lot of us have never been tested like that

Your Editor Asks: Trump is poisonous, and his defenseless victims mostly suffer silently.  How can his supporters condone it? Should they be blamed also?

Unusual Endorsement by US Hispanic Chamber Questioned, Praised


The National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s push for Obama administration official Julian Castro to be picked as a vice presidential candidate is generating a mixed reaction among Latino leaders.

The reaction generally is falling along party lines.

Supporters of Castro, who is U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and former mayor of San Antonio, say the Democratic rising star deserves to be considered for a top slot in the presidential election, and praise the chamber president, Javier Palomarez, for endorsing him over the weekend.

“What they’re voicing is what we know: Julian is a proven leader,” said Cristobal Alex, the president of the Latino Victory Project, a group founded by actress Eva Longoria and Henry Munoz, the Democratic Party’s finance chair, to raise the number of Latino political candidates. “He was the executive of one of our nation’s greatest cities for three terms. He put his own political career in jeopardy to pass a tax increase to fund pre-K education.”

“He can win the Latino vote, especially millennial Latinos.”

Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, an advocacy group, said he objects to the chamber’s endorsement of any political candidate.

“The Hispanic chamber is a non-partisan organization,” said Aguilar, who is supporting the campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “That’s a reason not to get involved” in endorsements.

“You’re saying you’re an organization that represents Hispanic businesses across the country, many owned by Republicans and Independents and people without any political agenda,” Aguilar said. “It’s putting at risk the reputation of the organization. Would they endorse somebody like [New Mexico] Gov. Susana Martinez as a vice presidential candidate?”

Martinez is a Republican and was often mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2012 when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the GOP presidential nominee.

Aguilar said that beyond his objection of endorsements by the chamber, he holds Castro in a less lofty light than the business organization.

“He has no experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Aguilar said. “His performance at HUD has been irrelevant.”

Palomarez balked at the criticism, characterizing it as predictable whining by people who did not have one of their favorites endorsed.

Palomarez, who also is from Texas, said that it is precisely fitting for a business group to get behind Castro, who has been a supporter of small businesses.

“We look at track records, at a history of having supported small businesses,” Palomarez said. “Julian has that track record. If Julian was a Republican, and had the same track record, I’d support him as well. He has a long, proven track record of a) supporting small business, b) Hispanic small business and c) the Hispanic community in general.”

Julian Castro has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and is campaigning for her. Clinton indicated last year that Castro is impressive and she would consider him for a position of some kind if she were elected president.

Palomarez said his backing of Castro did not mean he also is endorsing Clinton.

The chamber head told Politico. “I’ve had conversations with other candidates running for the presidency and they’re [interested in adding Castro to their ticket]. We should wait and see how things land.”

He said to Fox News Latino that there are qualities he likes in GOP presidential candidates, as well. He said that while he disagrees with some of Sen. Ted Cruz’s views on immigration, for instance, he likes his support for business.

Cruz for quite a while backed quintupling the number of visas in the H1-B program, which aims to bring in highly skilled workers.

Palomarez said: “For us as a business organization, that makes perfect sense.”

(Cruz has recently amended his public call for an expansion of H1-B visas, calling for a hold on the program so that abuses of it by employers can be examined. He also is advocating that several other safeguards be put in place in the H1-B visa system to make sure it is being used as originally intended.)

Castro, a graduate of Harvard Law School, rose to national prominence when he was chosen to deliver the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

The chamber has been holding a series of question and answer forums with presidential candidates from both parties.

What the Presidential Candidates Can Learn About Hispanic Voters from Social Media


New research conducted by OYE! Business Intelligence finds Hispanic Americans are having more social media conversations about Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.  News of the Hillary Clinton announcement led the overall conversation volume (37 percent) followed by Ted Cruz (27 percent), Marco Rubio (18 percent), and Rand Paul (17 percent).

The research sought to evaluate social media conversations among Hispanics over a one week period during the Presidential election announcements to discover what Hispanic Americans were saying about the nominations.

“We’ve found that some of the most passionate conversations among Hispanic Americans emerge around the presidential candidates,” said Natasha Pongonis, CEO and Founder of OYE! Business Intelligence. “As we draw closer to the 2016 election, we’re seeing 2016 Presidential candidates incorporate social media at the forefront of their candidacy campaigns to engage with online audiences and win over voters.”

News of Hillary Clinton’s YouTube candidacy announcement and subsequent memes not only led conversation volume (37 percent), but over half (56 percent) of this feedback was positive—the largest share of positive conversations.

In contrast, Ted Cruz collaborated with Hispanic organizations to drive content for Hispanic voters. But while Cruz’s efforts were widely shared over 69 percent of conversations were neutral or negative.

Despite his late announcement, Marco Rubio has emerged as the most polarizing candidate for Hispanics. Almost all conversation occurred from Florida, his home state, but received the largest share of negative feedback (32 percent).

“Above all, social media has proved an effective means to understand key demographics. Being able to listen in on voters’ conversations can be the key for these candidates to develop their ongoing strategy to win the highly sought Hispanic vote,” said Jennifer Elena, Founder of the JElena Group, a partner agency of OYE! Intelligence. “OYE! has provided us with that capability.”

Oye! Social Intelligence examined a week of Hispanic Twitter and Instagram conversation surrounding official nominees. To date, Hillary Clinton drives Hispanic social media conversation. Her YouTube candidacy announcement and subsequent memes not only led conversation volume (37 percent), but over half (56 percent) of this feedback was positive. Ted Cruz, in contrast, used Hispanic organizations to drive shares and content for Hispanic voters. While these efforts were widely shared and captured 27 percent of Hispanic conversations, over 40 percent was neutral.

Hillary Clinton Vice President Candidate Choices


20150525 PDF PG1 CLINTONFormer US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro after taking part in a discussion on ‘our nation’s urban centers,’ and ‘challenges from housing and transportation to education and workforce accessibility’ at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2015. (Photo : NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been trying to court the Latino electorate, but a former aide said she needs a specific Latino vice presidential candidate to improve her victory odds.

Henry Cisneros, who served as mayor of San Antonio between 1981 and 1989 and as secretary for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under President Bill Clinton’s administration, said Julián Castro is the first vice presidential running mate option for Clinton.

During the interview with Univision, Cisneros said people within the Clinton campaign notified him about Castro’s role in Clinton’s campaign.

“What I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, is that the first person on their lists is Julián Castro,” said Cisneros, via the San Antonio Express-News.

“That they don’t have a second option, because he is the superior candidate considering his record, personality, demeanor and Latin heritage,” continued Cisneros. “I think there is a very high possibility that Hillary Clinton may choose Julián Castro.”

Castro has repeatedly dismissed rumors about running for vice president. If Castro does run, he would be the first Latino vice presidential candidate.

Coincidentally, Castro followed a similar career route as Cisneros. Castro previously served as San Antonio mayor between 2009 and 2014 before becoming HUD secretary for Democratic President Barack Obama. Castro also received the national spotlight during his tenure as San Antonio mayor when he delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Last January, Castro was asked if he was interested in becoming a vice presidential candidate or Texas governor. “We’ll see what happens. There’s no grand plan,” said Castro during an appearance at the National Press Club.

“I’m trying to do a great job at HUD,” said Castro, according to The Hill. “I believe that anything that you do in life … the No. 1 way of being satisfied personally and also to have a great future — whatever that future is — is to just do a fantastic job with what’s in front of you because if you don’t do that, you can kiss any of that future goodbye. So, I’m just trying to do a good job with what’s in front of me.”

Earlier this month, Clinton’s campaign to attract the Latino electorate included a roundtable discussion with undocumented immigrant youths in Nevada. At the event Clinton disclosed her stance on immigration reform and President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions.

“If Congress continues to refuse to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further,” said Clinton. “There are more people like many parents of DREAMers and others with deep ties and contributions to our communities who deserve a chance to stay, and I will fight for them.”

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