FRANKLIN, Tennessee–IRS agent Samuel Garza is free on bail, after Tennessee Circuit Court Judge Joseph Woodruff slashed his bond in half.
Garza is charged with two felony counts of sexual battery against a female business owner he was auditing in Fairview, Tennessee. His bond was initially set at $300,000 before being cut to $150,000 last week. He walked free on Friday.
Judge Woodruff apparently found defense attorney Kyle Mothershead’s motion and oral argument to reduce bond persuasive. The motion argued, in part, that the sexual contact between Garza and the victim during the audit he conducted of her was consensual.
Garza admits to engaging in sexual contact with the alleged victim. She testified at a preliminary hearing in September that Garza told her when he initially met her to conduct the audit of her business “he said he had checked me out on Facebook, and that he said he thought everything would turn out ok.”
In dramatic testimony at that preliminary hearing, captured on video by WSMV television, the alleged victim vehemently rejected defense attorney Kyle Mothershead’s attempts to paint her as an unreliable witness:
Reporter: “The defense attorney questioned the victim as to why she didn’t report the choking part of the incident until after investigators charged Garza with sexual battery. Hear what she had to say about that:”
Victim: “I don’t know why don’t you come and sit in my shoes. Why don’t you have somebody like him come to you or go to your wife and have the veil of an audit come over you and have somebody come in to a place that you considered was safe, and you tell me how you would feel and have somebody touch you and you tell me if you could feel like you could leave and you could remember everything.”
The Williamson County District Attorney’s office opposed the motion to reduce the bond.
“Mr. Garza has acknowledged to the detective in this case that he and [the victim] did have some sexual contact during the audit, but maintains that the contact was consensual and he never threatened or coerced [the victim],” Mothershead told Judge Woodruff in his motion.
One former veteran Tennessee prosecutor tells Breitbart News this “consensual” argument signals the defense will put the victim on trial when the case is heard in late January.
“I’m not shocked about the consent defense,” the former prosecutor tells Breitbart News.
“Realistically, that is the only defense he has. He can’t claim it didn’t happen. I understand he was caught on video and confessed. His options really are limited,” the former prosecutor adds.
“The consent defense does something else too,” the former prosecutor warns.
“It sends a message to the victim that if this case goes to trial it is going to be nasty,” the prosecutor adds.
Judge Woodruff, a graduate of the University of Alabama Law School and former partner at the prestigious Nashville law firm of Waller, Lansden, Dortch, and Davis, was elected Circuit Court Judge for Hickman, Lewis, Perry, and Williamson Counties in 2014 as a Republican. He is up for re-election in 2022.
Breitbart News is the only news media organization so far to have obtained a copy of the motion to reduce bond, filed on November 20, and the order granting defendant’s motion to reduce bond, which was issued on Thursday, December 17.
As of Monday that order had not been signed as “entered” by Judge Woodruff. The order was signed as “approved for entry” by defense counsel Mothershead, who also signed and certified on Monday that “a true and exact copy of the foregoing has been delivered to the office of the District Attorney General, Williamson County Courthouse.”
According to the motion to reduce bond, Garza is still employed by the IRS, though on suspension.
This news appears to set a new precedent for the IRS. Revenue agents can now keep their jobs even if they admit to engaging in sexual contact with women whose businesses they audit–during the audit itself. They can also keep their jobs if they are charged with two felony counts of sexual battery of a female auditee until they are convicted.
If Mr. Garza is not convicted, or if he settles on lesser charges, he is likely to return to his job with the IRS as a revenue agent.
It is unclear if he would be subject to any constraints if he returns to his position. It appears that he would continue to be able to conduct audits of female taxpayers alone and unsupervised.
“From 2009 to the present, Mr. Garza has worked for the IRS as a revenue agent. He is presently on suspended status with the IRS because of this case,” the motion to reduce bond states.
Defense counsel Mothershead argued that “in all of his employment venues, Mr. Garza has had a consistent, reliable work history. His supervisors have consistently found him to be trustworthy and dependable.”
While this argument may have been persuasive to the judge in the bond reduction hearing, it could come back to haunt Garza at trial.
It gives Williamson County prosecutors an opportunity to call in Garza’s supervisors at the IRS, and review each and every audit he has conducted since his employment began there in 2009.
If another similar case was reported, and not acted on by his supervisors, it will reflect poorly on them and serve to further diminish public trust in an agency that is already publicly reviled in many quarters.
But the IRS appears to hold out the prospects of a return to full time employment status to Garza.
“The IRS has suspended Mr. Garza’s job, but is awaiting the outcome of these charges before making a final decision as to whether or not to terminate his employment,” the motion argued.
“Mr. Garza’s case has been in the news, and he has suffereded reputational damage because of it. If Mr. Garza prevails at trial, he will have cleared his name and will be able to return to work and rebuild his life,” Mothershead argued.
Presumably, Mr. Mothershead does not consider Garza’s admission of engaging in “consensual” sexual contact with a woman he was auditing in his position of authority as an IRS agent an act which besmirches his name.
But while engaged in what he claims was “consensual” sexual conduct with the alleged victim, Garza was in a position of authority over her, granted him by the federal government. Even engaging in “consensual” sexual contact with a woman under his authority is an abuse of that authority and a reason for employment termination in a world where laws are applied to federal employees in the same way they are applied to employees of private companies.
The strategy of putting the victim on trial is one that appears to be working so far for Garza.
“In adult sexual assault trials, most of the time there are one of two defenses offered,” the former prosecutor tells Breitbart News.
“The first is identification. That is, the victim picked out the wrong person. Those cases are not as hard on victims because the defense is not arguing an assault didn’t happen; only that the victim is blaming the wrong person,” the former prosecutor says.
“Consent is much different because the defense is calling the victim a liar and it does get messy,” the prosecutor adds.
“Back before the days of rape shield statutes (for prior sexual activity), lawyers would call those the ‘she’s a slut’ defense. A lot of women did not want to go through that,” the former prosecutor observes.
The motion to reduce bond asserted that the “bond setting for this case is presently $500,000.” That number is $200,000 higher than the $300,000 bond that had been previously reported.
It also provided new information about Garza’s personal background.
“Mr. Garza married his wife in 2011. The children are not Mr. Garza’s biological children and were born in 2004 and 2007, before Mr. Garza and his wife married. However, their biological father lives in Mexico, and Mr. Garza treats the children as his own,” the motion to reduce bond states.
The motion did not offer any information on the immigration or citizenship status of Garza’s wife or step children.
It did offer information on Garza’s citizenship status.
“Mr. Garza was born in Texas, but has resided in the middle Tennessee area since 2008,” the motion stated.
Judge Woodruff’s order granting Garza’s motion to reduce bond included several additional bond conditions:
1. Defendant is subject to GPS monitoring.
2. Defendant must obtain and maintain full-time employment
3. Defendant must comply with the terms of the Order of Protection filed by [the victim] against Defendant in Williamson County, Tennessee General Sessions Court.
4. Defendant may not have any contact whatsoever, direct or indirect, with the alleged victim in this case.
5. Defendant may not enter the geographic boundaries of Fairview, Tennessee.
6. Should Defendant post bond, Defendant’s bonding company is responsible for ensuring Defendant’s continued compliance with the special conditions detailed herein.
The former Tennessee prosecutor tells Breitbart News Garza and his attorney know exactly what they are doing, and their success in persuading Judge Woodruff to grant the motion to reduce bond against the objections of the Williamson County District Attorney’s office further proves that point.
“No one but the defendant and his lawyer know whether he really wants to go through with a trial on this or if this is a gambit to get a better plea offer,” the former prosecutor says.
“Now that he is out of jail, he is not interested in a speedy resolution to this. Sometimes when cases like this drag on the victim just becomes discouraged or frustrated and will tell the prosecutor just to make it go away.”
“While he is out on bail, time is his friend,” the former prosecutor concludes.