Joe Rubio

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Jose Marcelino "Joe" Rubio, Jr.​

District Attorney for Webb and Zapata counties in south Texas
In office
January 1, 1989 – December 31, 2008
Preceded by Julio A. Garcia
Succeeded by Isidro Reimundo "Chilo" Alaniz ​

Born July 22, 1954​
Laredo, Webb County​, Texas
Nationality Hispanic-American
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Julia Elizabeth Jones Rubio (married c. 1984)​[1]
Relations Richard Peña Raymond (cousin)
Children Including Jose M. Rubio, III​

Julia Rubio
Jose, Sr. and Josephina Rubio

Residence Laredo, Texas​
Alma mater J. W. Nixon High School (Laredo)

Texas State University (San Marcos) University of Houston Law School

Occupation Attorney
Religion Roman Catholic

Jose Marcelino Rubio, Jr., known as Joe Rubio, Jr. (born July 22, 1954), is the former district attorney for Webb and Zapata counties in south Texas. He holds the record as the longest serving DA for the 49th Judicial District. Rubio became DA on January 1, 1989. He announced on August 30, 2007, that he would not seek a sixth four-year term in the Democratic primary held on March 4, 2008, so that he could instead resume his private law practice in his native Laredo and spend more time with his family.[2]


Rubio is the paternal grandson of Samuel and Guadalupe Rubio. His mother is Josephina Rubio of Laredo. His father, Jose, Sr., had a distinguished record in the United States Army in the post-World War II occupation of Japan and was later the director of the Webb County Detention Center for several years, a racehorse owner, and a volunteer Little League coach.[3]

Rubio graduated in 1972 from J. W. Nixon High School in Laredo and is a member of the honored "Nixon Legends," established in 1993.[4] In 1976, he received degrees in both history and political science from Texas State University in San Marcos, then known as Southwest Texas State University. He graduated in 1979 from the University of Houston Law Center in Houston and then opened his law practice in Laredo in 1980. He specializes in the areas of family law and criminal defense. [5]

He is a Roman Catholic; his wife, the former Julia Elizabeth Jones (born 1958) is an Episcopalian.[1] His daughter also named Julia, is a prosecutor in the Special Victims Unit of the DA's office.[5]

Political life

Prior to his DA service, Rubio was briefly an elected trustee for the Laredo Independent School District and as well as the attorney for the school district.[5]

Rubio became DA when he was nominated in the primary in 1988 [5]to succeed a distant relative, Julio A. Garcia, who declined to seek a third term. Rubio then defeated a rare challenge from an Independent, Carlos Barrera, to secure the first of his five terms as DA. Barrera (born 1956), a former Webb County assistant DA under Garcia, thereafter relocated to Austin, where he opened a private law practice. On March 4, 2008, he was nominated in the Democratic primary in Travis County to fill a new judgeship, County Court-at-Law No. 8, which oversees criminal misdemeanor cases. Barrera was then unopposed in the November 4 general election for his judgeship.[6]

Expanding the DA's office

Rubio recognized the need for improving and augmenting services to victims of crime and hence created the Hot Checks Unit, the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit and the Domestic Violence Unit of the DA's office.[5] The Hot Checks Unit was established in 1989 when Rubio recognized the negative impact that insufficent-fund checks had on local business: "Hot checks impair our local economy when merchants must increase consumer costs in order to offset their losses." Since its establishment, the Hot Checks Unit has sought to obtain restitution for the victims of bad checks and to educate merchants to protect themselves against white collar crime.​

The Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit consists of a team of prosecutors and an investigator who specialize in highly sensitive cases involving the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of the most innocent and defenseless of victims. ​In 1997, Rubio established the 49th Judicial District's Domestic Violence Unit. Together, prosecutors, investigators and professional counselors have created a multi-county strategy to hold abusers accountable for their actions, and to offer help to victims.​[5]

After a failure to secure federal support over the costs involved, Rubio announced in 1998 that he would no longer prosecute federal drug cases within Webb and Zapata counties.[7]

Community service

On his office website, District Attorney Rubio explained the motto behind the mission of service to the community: "A healthy community depends upon the active involvement of all who live and work there. At the District Attorney’s office, we demonstrate our values and our commitment to public trust by volunteering for worthwhile causes and building relationships with members of the community."

One such example is the Courtrooms to Classrooms program, which places prosecutors, investigators, and other personnel into local classrooms to teach young people how laws and crime have an effect on all members of the community. The program involves participation in school career days, debates and library fairs. It also provides law enforcement training for school resource officers, participation in Police Week at LCC and offers both an internship and shadowing program for persons seeking a career in law and law enforcement.​

Rubio said that his office actively participated in and sponsored various local organizations and events including the Domestic Violence Coalition, the Webb County Coalition, the Children’s Coalition, the Red Ribbon Campaign, Pink-to-Do Campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness, MADD, WBCA parade, GREAT Program (Gang Resistance Education & Training), Crime Stoppers, Special Student of the Month, the “Say No to Drugs” Campaign Guajolote Run, LIFE Downs, and various trail rides throughout the year.​

Rubio said that he had "demonstrated a commitment to making a difference in the communities of Webb and Zapata" counties.

Commitment to children

As DA, Rubio in 1995 created the Children's Coalition, which led to the establishment of a permanent Lamar Bruni Vergara Child Advocacy Center. Prior to that time, little was done in regard to child-abuse reports received by local law enforcement officials. According to Sylvia Bruni, a former Laredo Independent School District superintendent and an active liberal Democrat who heads the advocacy center, there had previously been no organized approach to the investigation and the prosecution of such cases.​

Rubio explained the purpose of the center: "It reduces trauma to the child. . . . Instead of having the child bouncing between the police department and the hospital, they can go to one place" to receive counseling and be interviewed by police and prosecutors. Bruni said that Rubio "recognized the need and did something about it. A lot of us saw a problem but didn't act. Rubio did."[8]

Triple-ax murder case of 1991

Rubio's activities regarding a triple-axe murder case early in 1991 have continued to be questioned though the matter did not affect his re-election prospects. James D. "Jim" Smiley (1958–1991), a Missouri native, Laredo businessman, and a Southern Baptist deacon, Ruben Martinez, then twenty-one, and Daniel Duenez Capetillo, then fourteen years of age, were murdered in Smiley's home by two teenagers wielding an axe. The killers were Miguel Angel Martinez, Jr., then seventeen, and Miguel Angel Venegas, Jr., then sixteen. Martinez was given the death penalty and for a time was the youngest person on Texas death row. His punishment was commuted to life imprisonment. Venegas was imprisoned but not tried as an adult.[9]

The axe and knives used in the crime were provided to the killers by Milo Flores, a son of then State District Judge Manuel R. "Meme" Flores. Milo Flores was also the alleged getaway driver. Rubio was accused of having failed to procure an indictment against Milo Flores because of the political connection between the DA and the judge When then Laredo City Councilman Alfonso "Poncho" Casso sought to bring federal obstruction of justice charges against Rubio in the matter, the DA had Casso jailed on a technical violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. Casso ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Laredo in 1998. No formal charges were brought forth against him.

Meanwhile, Lisa Zintsmaster, the former wife of a Laredo attorney, testified under oath that an illegal meeting was held between Rubio and Judge Flores after the triple-ax murders to shield Milo Flores from prosecution.[10] Flores survived the scrutiny over his son for fifteen years. Then in 2006, he was unseated in the Democratic primary by attorney Joe Lopez, Jr.​ ​

Corruption in the DA's office

Rubio said that his decision not to seek re-election for a sixth term in 2008 was unrelated to a string of controversies during his tenure as DA which involved members of his family. In a federal sweep of the district attorney's office in 1997, five persons, including his father, Jose Marcelino "Pichino" Rubio, Sr. (1926-2013),[3] were convicted on charges involving case fixing.[11]

In May 2000, Rubio, Sr., was found guilty of conspiracy and extortion; three years later in March 2003, he was given a four-year sentence in a federal prison hospital after his motion requesting home confinement was denied by U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen. Rubio, Sr., approached families of defendants in their homes and suggested bribes to get favorable action on their pertinent cases. The evidence did not show that Rubio, Jr., was aware of the solicitations, but Rubio, Sr., was in the DA's office on a nearly daily basis. Rubio, Sr., claimed that the cases were dismissed, not by his son, the DA, but by assistant DA Ramon Villafranca.[12]

Rubio said at the time that his father's "health is in a fragile state; however, the order by the courts was well thought out and reflected that they, too, are concerned about his condition." He continued: "I recognize that the law must be applied to everyone, equally. If someone does something wrong, then they [sic] have to face the consequences, including members of my family."[13] Rubio, Sr., was released on November 24, 2006, after three and a half years of confinement.

Rubio's brother, Carlos Manuel Rubio (born 1959), was sentenced to thirty-two months in federal prison in 2000 after his conviction in a case-fixing violation that involved DA office employees. He was released on August 2, 2002.[14]

The case also implicated Alberto G. Rubio (born 1924), an uncle of Rubio, as well as a cousin. When asked why he chose not to run in 2008, Rubio noted that he easily survived the 2000 election despite the scandal and was unopposed in 2004. "Right now we're probably in the best political shape we've ever been. It's not because of not wanting to face another political battle. It's a financial decision," the DA explained.[15]

Rubio the Democrat

Rubio announced too that after leaving office he would, like his father, remain active in the Democratic Party. A former Webb County Democratic chairman, Rubio was the most visible county supporter of New Mexico's then Governor Bill Richardson's unsuccessful bid for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, secured by Barack Hussein Obama. Rubio described Richardson as "sensitive and knowledgeable about our [Hispanic] culture. ... We believe in him and think that he can do a good job."[16]

Two of Rubio's prosecutors, Democrats Oscar Hale, Jr., and Joe Lopez, Jr., became district judges. Another high-level DA employee, Ricardo "Rick" Flores, was elected Webb County sheriff in 2004, after having been dismissed from the DA's office from his position as counselor and criminal investigator in the Domestic Violence Unit. Flores was an unsuccessful candidate for re-nomination in the April 8 Texas Democratic runoff election. He lost in a controversial recount to Martin Cuellar, brother of U.S. Representative Henry Roberto Cuellar, also a Laredo Democrat.[17] In 2012, Flores ran as an Independent for sheriff but fared poorly in an attempt to unseat Cuellar.​

Rubio is a maternal cousin of Texas Democratic state Representative Richard Peña Raymond, another Laredo Democrat.

Succeeding Rubio

Three of the four Democrats who sought to succeed Rubio had ties to the DA's office. Fausto Sosa (born 1960) and Rolando "Rolie" Garza (born 1957) are former first assistant district attorneys. The two were eliminated the 2008 primary. Sosa started working as an assistant DA under Rubio's predecessor, Julio Garcia. Isidro Reimundo "Chilo" Alaniz (born 1968), who easily led in the primary with 49 percent of the vote and was the choice of Rubio as his successor, formerly headed the DA child-abuse unit.

Maria Elena Morales (born 1952), Alaniz's opponent in the April 8 runoff election, criticized Rubio's administration and had no ties to the DA's office. Morales drew 21 percent in the primary and indicated at a candidate forum held at then Laredo Community College that she would not permit assistant DA's to maintain a private law practice. If elected, Morales said that she would halt her private law practice for full-time service as district attorney.[18]

Voters handily nominated Alaniz in the runoff — he won all fifty-nine precincts — and was unopposed in the November general election. No Republican has ever even sought the position in heavily Democratic Webb County.​

Meanwhile, Rubio maintains his law practice in which he specializes in criminal defense, both at the state and federal levels, as well as family and civil law. In 2020, he and his wife portrayed George Washington and Martha Washington in the annual Washington's Birthday Celebration n Laredo.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Julia Elizabeth Jones Rubio. Washington's Birthday Celebration. Retrieved on February 22, 2020.
  2. Julian Aguilar, "Rubio bows out," Laredo Morning Times, August 31, 2007, p. 1, 12A.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Jose Marcelino "Pichino" Rubio, Sr. (December 28, 1926 – February 13, 2013), Laredo Morning Times, February 15, 2013, p. 10A.
  4. Joe Rubio. (no longer active) (November 2002; no longer accessible on line).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Joe M. Rubio, Jr.. Washington's Birthday Celebration. Retrieved on February 22, 2020.
  6. Julian Aguilar, "Laredoan new judge," Laredo Morning Times, March 8, 2008, p. 3A.
  7. Freedom has nothing to fear from the truth,"; material no longer accessible on-line.
  8. Jason Buch, "Rubio's great act recognized," Laredo Morning Times, April 25, 2008, pp. 1, 17A.
  9. Stories 93,, no longer on-line.
  10. Ernesto Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare, Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1997, pp. 84-85.
  11. Joe M. Rubio Sr.. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on February 22, 2020.
  12. Ernesto Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare, Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1997, pp. 85-86.
  13. Adriana Arce, "Rubio to serve time in prison," Laredo Morning Times, March 13, 2003.
  14. Carlos Rubio. Federal Bureau of Prison. Retrieved on February 22, 2020.
  15. Julian Aguilar, "Rubio bows out," Laredo Morning Times, August 31, 2007, p. 1, 12A.
  16. Julian Aguilar, "Wall ineffective, Richardson says," Laredo Morning Times, November 2, 2007, pp. 1, 12A.
  17. 2004; no longer on-line}}
  18. Jason Buch, "DA candidates open debate on merits of office," Laredo Morning Times, December 5, 2007, p. 5A.