A man who allegedly escaped from the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana on New Years Day last year pleaded not guilty the charge on Thursday.
Ramon Benjamin Fernandez, 30, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Boone Baxter with an interpreter for arraignment at a hearing in Texarkana’s downtown federal building. Judge Baxter appointed Texarkana lawyer Cory Floyd to represent Fernandez.
Fernandez is currently in Texas state custody serving time for a residential burglary committed the same day as the alleged escape. Floyd entered a not guilty plea on Fernandez’s behalf and waived the issue of possible bond on the federal charge, court records show.
Bowie County Sheriff’s Office deputies and officers with the Texarkana Texas Police Department responded to a burglary call at a house near the prison in the 600 block of Walker Road at around 5 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2022, according to court documents.
The homeowner told investigators he received an alert on his cell phone that the security alarm at his house had been activated and that when he went home, he found a man in gray sweatpants and a gray sweatshirt standing in his hallway. The homeowner reportedly held the burglar, later identified as Fernandez, at gunpoint while he took him outside the residence to wait for police.
Fernandez fled into a nearby wooded area as marked units approached. The homeowner reported that nothing was taken though his iPad had been used after the burglar broke a window and reached inside the house to unlock a back door.
“It appears that the suspect was attempting to steal the iPad or use it to contact someone to assist him in his escape from federal custody when he was interrupted by the victim in this case,” court records state.
Shortly after responding to the burglary call, investigators learned that an inmate had escaped from FCI Texarkana. Using home video surveillance footage and information from officials at FCI, investigators determined Fernandez was the escape suspect and the burglary suspect.
Fernandez was apprehended later that night in neighboring Cass County.
He pleaded guilty to burglary of a habitation before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell in Bowie County on June 15 and received a five-year sentence, court records show. Fernandez is currently eligible for parole on the state sentence, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Federal officials previously reported that Fernandez was serving a 37-month sentence for a drug offense and the Bureau of Prisons indicates that he will have served his time on that term on June 12 of this year.
If convicted of escape, Fernandez faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.