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Prison Escapee George Rivas Testifies

Aired August 28, 2001 - 10:45   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to show you live pictures and listen in now George Rivas, he is the convicted murderer. This is the penalty phase of his murder trial. He was convicted of killing Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins during a Christmas eve robbery of a sporting goods store last year. He is one of the Texas seven who escaped from prison, and was on the road for a number of weeks.

Let's listen in to George Rivas.

QUESTION: OK. What were you arrested for then?

GEORGE RIVAS, CONVICTED MURDERER: He had a knife in the glove compartment, and I got charged with unlawful possession of a weapon.

QUESTION: OK. What happened to that case?

RIVAS: That was dismissed. I mean, my friend said that was his knife, and they charged me because they said it was within my reach, being in the glove compartment on the passenger's side.

QUESTION: When was the next time that you had gotten in trouble with the law?

RIVAS: That was something I did. I was shoplifting in 1998 also.

QUESTION: OK. What happened with that case?

RIVAS: I got like a six-month probation or something. I forget.

QUESTION: And did you do -- did you spend anytime in jail on that?

RIVAS: The day I was in jail. You know, booking, processing.

QUESTION: And how old were you then?

RIVAS: 18.

QUESTION: When was the next time that you had problems with the law?

RIVAS: That day I won't forget, January 5th of '89.

QUESTION: OK, and what happened.

RIVAS: Me and a friend, or acquaintance actually, had gone to his home in the desert. The individual who owned that house is testifying here. And they charged us with burglary habitation, they said it was criminal trespassing. And I didn't want to go to prison after my attorney told me. So I took the probation.

QUESTION: OK. So you made a plea bargain in that case...


QUESTION: ... and you opted for probation? Is that correct?


QUESTION: And what happened on that probation?

RIVAS: That, basically, has kept me scared straight for a while. And after I was incarcerated they revoked it nearly two years after -- into my incarceration.

QUESTION: And is that one of the cases that were doing a life sentence on?

RIVAS: Yes, they stacked that life -- an aggravated life sentence.

QUESTION: OK. And you said for two years, though. Did you have two years on your probation that you knew relatively well?

RIVAS: No, I mean, I went from 1989 -- I think I was actually given the probation in July. I had just graduated from high school and started college. And then I committed my next crime in September of '92.

QUESTION: OK. So from '89 to '92, you didn't -- what was going on in your life during that time period?

RIVAS: Well, working and going to college.

QUESTION: OK. Where were you working?

RIVAS: When I got the probation, I was working at Sears.

QUESTION: OK. And how long did you stay at that job?

RIVAS: Oh, just several months since that summer. After I got that probation, and I told my supervisors. Then I got accused -- after they -- after I told them about the probation, I got accused of stealing a VCR, and my word really meant nothing now because of that probation. And I got terminated.

QUESTION: OK. You were 18 years old at the time?

RIVAS: No, I had just turned 19 then.

QUESTION: OK. And what job were you doing at Sears?

RIVAS: Technician. I had started on small engine repair, and then went to TV and VCR.

QUESTION: OK. After the Sears job, where did you go from there?

RIVAS: AutoZone.

QUESTION: OK, and how long did you work at AutoZone?

RIVAS: Oh, mid to late '89, until Labor Day weekend of 1990.

QUESTION: OK. And what happened that you were no longer working at AutoZone?

RIVAS: Honestly, an old crime of mine caught up to me that I committed in high school.

QUESTION: And what was that?

RIVAS: Robbery.


RIVAS: My first robbery.

QUESTION: And what, what was the first robbery?

RIVAS: Payless. Payless Shoesource.

QUESTION: OK. When was that?

RIVAS: December of '88.

QUESTION: OK. And what happened with that case?

RIVAS: Oh, I went to trial, and it was a hung jury, I believe.

QUESTION: OK. Why do you say that that caught up to you when you were working at AutoZone?

RIVAS: I was doing good at AutoZone. I was already up for a assistant manager position. I had worked twice as hard, because of the probation. I always told my managers -- well, my employers, what my situation was.

And we were getting close to some exams at college, and a detective and a uniformed officer came into the store one day while I was at work, made a big show about arresting me right there in front of my coworkers and my employees, read the charge outloud, and they charged me some other robbery, too, but that was dismissed. The manager took one look at me and said, that wasn't me.

QUESTION: So they came into the store, because they came in, in uniform and talked about the charges, you were dropped from that job, is that what happened? RIVAS: Well, they let me keep the job, but I lost my slot for that position. And then the one time, the one time I called in sick, they fired me, after that, and so I remember it was Labor Day. I had called in for one of those days, and I was told that I was fired when I cam back.

QUESTION: What was the next move that you made?

RIVAS: From the time -- from that time until, till '92, I would try to get jobs, but I'd always tell, it wasn't worth me lying to a potential employer that I didn't have a criminal history, so I'd always tell them about the probation, and then they told them that I had a pending charge of aggravated robbery, so they didn't do the much for help. So I took up like a bunch of odd jobs like roofing and anything to get my hands to work.

QUESTION: OK. And pending aggravated robbery that you are talking about is the Payless Shoes.

RIVAS: Right, yes.

QUESTION: When did you get in the trouble with the law again?

RIVAS: I don't know the exact dates. The month might be wrong, but I committed my second robbery in September of '92.

QUESTION: OK, and where was that?

RIVAS: It was a Checker Auto Parts in El Paso.

QUESTION: OK. And whatever happened with that case?

RIVAS: I was indicted in '96. I took responsibility for all of them, but they never took me to trial or anything.

QUESTION: And what happened when you got charged with that case? What was the next step?

RIVAS: Well, I got charged for these when I was already arrested in '93.


RIVAS: So I mean, I wasn't arrested right then and there, no.

QUESTION: OK. Well, then let me ask you this, when is the next time that you got in trouble with the law?

RIVAS: Well, honestly, from that first one in September, until my capture on May 25th in '93, it was a stream of robberies actually.

QUESTION: OK. Do you know where all of those were?

RIVAS: The majority were in El Paso.

QUESTION: OK. RIVAS: Then I think there were two others. somewhere in Texas. I know Lubbock is one of them.


Would that be the Autozone in Lubbock?

RIVAS: Yes, I wrote a letter to the sheriff down there, telling them that it was me after they had indicted me.


RIVAS: They ended up dismissing that charge.

QUESTION: Did you have some in New Mexico as well?

RIVAS: Yes, New Mexico and Arizona.

QUESTION: And how many of -- how many total do you think was out there?

RIVAS: Altogether? Probably about 10, 12.

QUESTION: OK. And you heard a lot of people get up on stand and talk about some of these robberies. Were they basically all the same?

RIVAS: To the last three, they were all the same.

QUESTION: OK. And when you say the last three, which ones would those be?

RIVAS: Well, actually four in there, but it was three. The first, the grocery store, the Oshman's, and Toys 'R' Us warehouse.

QUESTION: And the rest of these, you said you got indicted on those, but you were already incarcerated, is that right?


QUESTION: OK. And so, for example the Las Cruces, New Mexico, that Radio Shack?


QUESTION: That would have occurred. You wouldn't have given a statement on that until later, is that correct?

RIVAS: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: So the statement that Mr. Huff read into evidence yesterday, although it's dated June 10th of 1993, that actually was committed before that, is that correct?

RIVAS: I think that was in April. That was after the Oshman's.

QUESTION: OK. So a lot of those just didn't come to pass until you were in the hands of El Paso, is that right?

RIVAS: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: OK. Let's talk about the Oshman's in El Paso. What happened in that case?

KAGAN: We've been listening in to testimony from George Rivas. He is a convicted murderer, convicted of killing Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins in a Christmas Eve robbery of a sporting goods store last year, one of the Texas Seven, those inmates who escaped from those Texas prisons and were on the road for a number of weeks. Rivas, at the time of the escape, was serving 17 life sentences for armed robberies, and kidnapping who he escaped last December with those six fellow inmates.

The question now that he's been convicted of the murder of officer Aubrey Hawkins, the question for the jury, do they give him death or life in prison?

We will check in on the story a little bit later.



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