WACO, Texas — The trial for Cecily Aguilar, the woman charged in connection to the death of Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen, will begin Sept. 28, according to documents filed Thursday afternoon.
The trial, which begins with jury selection, will be held in the court of Judge Alan Albright.
Aguilar, 22, was indicted by a federal grand jury in July on three counts of conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Aguilar pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond. If the defense and prosecution decide to enter into a plea agreement, they would have to file it on or before Sept. 14, according to the documents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Frazier also filed a motion Thursday requesting the judge deny a request by Aguilar's defense attorney to issue a gag order.
The motion, filed July 27 by Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender Lewis B. Gainor, asks Albright to prohibit trial participants, including witnesses, the Guillen family and their attorneys to make that would "have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing Ms. Aguilar's right to a fair trial."
Frazier argued in his response that "case law does not support a request to "gag" a crime victim's family members and their legal counsel. They are not parties, attorneys for the parties or court personnel. At this time, it is not known whether any family member will testify at trial."
The gag order motion, along with any others, were scheduled to be heard on Sept. 8.
The 14-page motion filed by Gainor, said Guillen Family Attorney Natalie Khawam's statements could have a negative impact on potential jurors in the case.
The motion cites previous reports where Khawam referred to Aguilar as a "terrorist," "murderer," "sicko," and has employed other "dehumanizing tropes to condemn Ms. Aguilar as an animal or something less than human."
It went on to say that Khawam's "media campaign shows no signs of letting up," and that her "statements are poisoning the pool of potential jurors for Ms. Aguilar."
Frazier said because Khawam is not a member of the investigative team and does not represent the defense, the motion to issue the gag order should be denied.
"The family’s attorney does not and cannot make herself part of the investigative team merely because she has asked witness to come forward to her," Frazier argues. "In this case, the victim’s family and their legal representatives are not part of the group of investigators gathering evidence."
Gainor's motion argues that "without a gag order, there is a substantial likelihood that extrajudicial comments by trial participants will result in an unfair trial."
Comments and statements included in the order would be those "intended to influence public opinion regarding the merits of this case but does not include statements regarding the general nature of any allegation or defenses, the information contained in the public record, scheduling information, any decision or order that is public record, and the contents of any motion that is part of the public record."
6 News Legal Expert Liz Mitchell said that often times you see these in high profile cases.
"Essentially, parties are trying to do this because they are trying to protect their jury pool. They want to ensure that their client gets a fair trial and it's hard to do that if all the facts of the case if all of the evidence has already been laid out in the media and through the press before you even have an opportunity to pick your jury," Mitchell said. "At that point, everybody's already heard the evidence and already made up their mind."
When Mitchell was asked if this motion. if granted, would make a difference overall, she said in this case, it seems a bit too little, too late.
"I think the attorney is trying to do something. At least stop it and maybe take the focus off of the case for a while, so that a little bit of time passes and then you're able to pick a jury without it being in the newspaper at the same time corresponding with your jury selection," Mitchell said.
According to a federal criminal complaint in the case, Aguilar helped her boyfriend Spc. Aaron Robinson dispose of Guillen's body after Robinson killed Guillen with a hammer on Fort Hood in April. The body was mutilated and burned in an attempt to dispose of Guillen's body and the remains were buried near the Leon River, just outside Little-River Academy.
The remains were found June 30 after Guillen had been missing for more than two months. They were subsequently identified as the Guillen family attorney and later Fort Hood.
The Guillen family and their attorney have held numerous rallies since the soldier's disappearance to demand justice for the soldier, transparency in her case and legislation in Spc. Guillen's name - which has garnered national attention.