Nathaniel Sanders II

Deadlines have ruled attorney Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez’s life for the past 31 years. From completing doctoral assignments to writing briefs, the lawyer has become an expert in time management. He spends his spare time in the courtroom reading about history.

Icenhauer-Ramirez, 55, practices mostly criminal defense but defends clients in civil cases as well. He currently represents former Austin Police Department Officer Leonardo Quintana in two civil lawsuits concerning the May 2009 Nathaniel Sanders II shooting. The full-time attorney is simultaneously pursuing a doctoral degree in American history at UT.

The attorney, a Hebbronville native, graduated from Texas A&M University with a history degree in 1976. He ended up applying to and was eventually accepted into UT’s School of Law the same year. Upon receiving his law degree, Icenhauer-Ramirez worked in attorneys’ offices in Port Arthur and later in Austin, but he said his interest in history lingered.

“History allows you to look at the bigger world,” he said. “It lets you escape into something that you don’t really have any awareness of when you grew up, sheltered in a town with 3,000 people.”

History professor and graduate adviser James Sidbury said he does not have any doubts that Icenhauer-Ramirez will complete the doctoral degree while practicing law even though it conventionally consumes an individual’s full-time attention for six to eight years.

“Earning a Ph.D. in history is quite difficult,” Sidbury said. “That Robert is taking on this while working full time as an attorney says everything you need to know about his work ethic.”

The attorney undertakes about 40 to 50 cases at any given point, down from the 100 he assumed at a younger age, and has worked with clients in high-profile cases. He represented Forrest Welborn — one of the suspects in the yogurt shop murders in which Austin police found four girls dead in a North Austin establishment in 1991 — and eventually got him acquitted.

Now, Icenhauer-Ramirez represents the former officer who became the center of controversy after fatally shooting the 18-year-old Sanders.

Quintana was patrolling East Austin when he spotted a car reportedly seen at several crime scenes in the area. Quintana found Sanders and 22-year-old Sir Lawrence Smith sleeping in the car and tried to wake them up. When Sanders pulled out a gun, the former officer fatally shot Sanders in the chest. Sanders’ family and Smith have filed separate lawsuits against Quintana since the incident.

Although Quintana was fired and arrested for misdemeanor charges, Icenhauer-Ramirez said he does not have a problem differentiating between the lawsuits’ issues and his client’s other legal troubles.

“If something is going on in the other side of the case or in someone’s personal life, you have to realize that it will affect in some way how the person handles the case,” he said. “I try to limit myself to looking at these specific issues and not worry too much about where it goes from there.”

Bobby Taylor, an Austin attorney who has worked both with and against Icenhauer-Ramirez in the past, said the attorney’s straightforwardness and honesty make him stand out.

“When he says something, he does it,” Taylor said. “When he represents his client, he does it very zealously. I take faith in what he says. If he commits to or says something, he’s going to stand behind it.”

Icenhauer-Ramirez said he hopes to complete his doctoral degree — with just the comprehensive exam and doctoral thesis remaining — in the next three to four years, but will continue practicing law after attaining the degree.

Although Austin Police Department officials fired former Officer Leonardo Quintana in late October, the city is still responsible for finding him legal representation.

City Council members unanimously passed a legal contract Thursday to allocate funds for outside counsel in the latest lawsuit against Quintana. The city is obligated to represent Quintana because he was acting as an Austin police officer at the time of the officer-involved shootings, said city spokeswoman Samantha Park.

“Because the city had taken disciplinary actions against him, the most responsible course of action is to bring in outside legal counsel,” Park said.

Quintana became the center of controversy after fatally shooting 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II in May 2009 after failing to activate his dashboard camera. Quintana was patrolling East Austin when he spotted a car reportedly seen at several crime scenes in the area. Sanders and Sir Lawrence Smith were sleeping in the car as a driver took them to an apartment complex. The driver got out of the car, and Quintana detained him, court records show.

The officer tried to physically awaken the passengers and scared them, causing Sanders to pull out his gun, according to court documents. Upon seeing the gun, Quintana backed away and fired into the car’s windows, shooting Smith in the chest and killing Sanders.

Both families have since filed separate lawsuits against Quintana. Smith, 22, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 19 on the grounds that the former officer used excessive force and violated his constitutional rights. Under the approved legal services contract, the city hired Austin-based attorney Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez, who is currently representing Quintana in the Sanders’ suit.

The city will use no more than $190,000 from its Liability Reserve Fund to pay for the fees or expenses incurred from Smith’s lawsuit, including hiring experts, officials said.

“Since I have anticipated the filing of the lawsuit for about a year and a half, I am actually looking forward to answering the allegations made in the lawsuit,” Icenhauer-Ramirez said. “I believe Leonardo Quintana’s defense will ultimately be successful. I’m familiar with the facts of the case, and I think the facts are on our side.”

Icenhauer-Ramirez said the Sanders case is set for November 2011 and that he will now begin to gather witnesses, investigate the case and put together exhibits in preparation for the Smith trial.

Less than a week after being reinstated to the Austin Police Department, Officer Leonardo Quintana is facing new scrutiny from the department after allegations of assault from his former girlfriend. The charges could amount to his fourth offense while on the force, which could result in another suspension or termination from the department.

The Austin Police Department could not release any details of the allegations because the internal investigation is ongoing. Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent said he does not know the case’s facts or the outcomes.

“We’re just going to have to sit back and see what this is all about,” Vincent said. “Let the timing speak for itself.”

In his first offense, in 2006, Quintana was charged with criminal trespass when he brushed past his girlfriend’s arm to get his cruise ticket in her home. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo initially gave him a 15-day suspension but reduced it to a written reprimand.

Quintana became the center of controversy after he fatally shot 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II in May 2009, when his dashboard camera was turned off. He received a 15-day suspension for failing to activate the camera. His third offense, a driving-while-intoxicated charge, led Acevedo to suspend him indefinitely and Quintana to appeal.

APD officials said Thursday that management will stick to their original decision that Quintana had too many lapses in judgment. Hours after his reinstatement, Quintana learned about the assault allegations.

A dismissal board will review the investigation Wednesday afternoon and make a decision on Quintana’s punishment, which could range from a suspension to termination.
 

An arbitrator reinstated Austin police Officer Leonardo Quintana on Thursday after five months off the force following a drunken driving offense earlier this year.

Quintana’s indefinite suspension for the DWI was not appropriate because the discipline was not consistent with those of other Austin Police Department officers who also were convicted of the same offense, wrote arbitrator Louise Wolitz. She reduced his suspension to 15 days.

Quintana, a center of controversy after the May 2009 shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II, petitioned for reinstatement after his suspension in May. In addition to the DWI charges, Quintana faces two lawsuits related to his involvement in the shooting of the 18-year-old Sanders and 22-year-old Sir Lawrence Smith in 2009.

“Officer Quintana is reminded that he now has two 15-day suspensions on his record,” Wolitz wrote. “Any further disciplinary violations may again lead to indefinite suspension.”

APD officials said in a statement they were disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision and that management stands by its original decision. They declined to comment further.

During Quintana’s Sept. 2-3 reinstatement hearing, police Chief Art Acevedo testified that the officer had too many lapses in judgement throughout his nearly 10-year career with the department, including a trespass charge and his failure to turn on his dashboard camera before the Sanders shooting.

Quintana was patrolling the streets in May 2009 when he spotted a car reported at several crime scenes in the area. Smith and Sanders were sleeping in the car as a driver took them to an apartment complex in East Austin. According to court records, the driver got out of the car and Quintana detained him. The officer attempted to physically wake the passengers and startled them, causing Sanders to pull out his gun, court records show. Quintana shot Smith in the chest and fatally shot Sanders while his dashboard camera was off.

Smith filed a lawsuit against the officer Tuesday on the grounds that Quintana “acted willfully, deliberately, maliciously or with reckless disregard for plaintiff’s clearly established constitutional rights against the use of unreasonable, necessary and excessive force.” Smith demanded an undisclosed amount for damages — including medical expenses, lost wages and disfigurement — and a jury trial.

Quintana also faces another lawsuit, filed in September, by the Sanders family after City Council members rejected a $750,000 settlement in July. The family’s attorney, Adam Loewy, declined to comment on Quintana’s reinstatement.