El Paso businessman Billy Abraham could spend up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all 10 counts in a new indictment publicly released last Monday.
The El Paso County district attorney’s case against Abraham is all about the three-car elevator system in the historic Toltec Building, allegedly forged documents regarding the elevator’s care and what Abraham himself did during a telephone court hearing in May 2017.
State Administrative Law Judge Hunter Burkhalter conducted that hearing from Austin with Abraham and another witness who were in El Paso. At issue was whether the Toltec’s elevator system, which had not been properly inspected in years and needed repairs, should be shut down and locked.
Text messages show Abraham tried to keep his longtime elevator repairman, Cromwell Morgan, from answering Burkhalter’s call and testifying at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation hearing that day.
Abraham was originally indicted on three felony charges in connection with that case last August and he was set to go to trial June 21. But, on June 20, a grand jury re-indicted him on 10 charges in the case, resulting in the cancellation of his trial.
The new charges against Abraham arising from the hearing and documents he submitted are six counts of tampering with evidence, three counts of aggravated perjury and one count of witness tampering.
Abraham, who has been free on bail since his original indictment, has yet to be re-arraigned, enter a new plea and have a bond set following his re-indictment.
One count of the indictment accuses Abraham of witness tampering and obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to bribe Morgan in a text message not to take the judge’s call.
The text message offering Morgan money was actually sent to Morgan from a cellphone belonging to Abraham’s mother, Margaret, who has not been charged.
Another count accuses Abraham of telling Morgan not to take Burkhalter’s call in a series of rapid text messages.
“Cromwell whatever you do Do not ANSWER YOU PHONE,” one of those messages read.
Neither Abraham nor his attorney, Jim Darnell, could be reached for comment.
El Paso Inc. did reach Morgan, who said he is weary of the whole affair, which has hurt his reputation and wrecked his business.
“It has, it really has,” he said. “People Google my name and it comes up and they just don’t want to get involved with a guy with all these problems – whether it’s my fault or not.
“I was making money hand over fist, and now I’m not making any money.”
Morgan said he was expecting a call from the district attorney’s office before the June 21 trial along with a subpoena, but they never came and he had no idea why.
He heard about the new indictment from El Paso Inc. during an interview that interrupted him as he was finishing up repairs on an elevator – and not just any elevator, but the one that started it all.
“I’m in the Toltec Building working on the elevator now,” he said. “Yeah, it’s kinda weird.
“I’m working for Billy’s cousin, Greg Malooly, and I’m almost done with the elevator.”
Malooly, who is close to Abraham, outbid others to acquire the Toltec for $1.3 million earlier this year at one of the auctions arising from Abraham’s bankruptcy case, which is just now winding down.
It is an important building to the Abraham family and the place where Billy Abraham had an apartment above the office of his father, Joseph “Sib” Abraham, a prominent lawyer who died in 2014.
Over the years, Morgan spent a lot of time there working on the elevators, often without pay.
“I love Billy, and I never intended to hurt him,” Morgan said. “I just didn’t want to hurt myself trying not to hurt him.
“I’m going on vacation tomorrow and will be up in Wisconsin, so if anybody needs me, I’ll be up there.”
Abraham has lost his collection of historic but dilapidated Downtown buildings in a series of bankruptcy auctions that should leave him debt free for the first time in many years and the owner of other properties that are free and clear.
A good deal of what he ends up with will likely go toward his legal defense expenses as he faces the possible loss of freedom – not for the first time.
Abraham, now 63, spent two years in a state penitentiary starting in 2015 after pleading no contest to failure to stop and render aid to a man he struck and killed on Paisano Drive while driving drunk in 2010. He was acquitted of an intoxicated manslaughter charge but convicted of drunk driving and pleaded guilty to causing serious bodily injury resulting in death.
Any jury that considers Abraham’s fate at trial on the charges he now faces will see detailed references to that conviction under each charge, put there by the grand jury.
It appears 10 times in the indictment: “And the Grand Jurors further present in and to said Court that prior to the commission of the primary offense by said Defendant, on or about March 16, 2015 ... the said Defended was convicted of a felony, to wit: Accident Involving SBI/Death.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.