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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Courtrooms: Cash-Generating Enterprises

Cameron DA faces bribery charges
The San Antonio News-Express by Lynn Brezosky  -  May 8, 2012
Villalobos says he's innocent and won't drop out of U.S. House race.

BROWNSVILLE, TX — Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos and Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio, his former law partner, were arrested Monday under a 12-count indictment alleging a scheme to pocket more than $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks to fix or dismiss court cases.  Among the many scathing accusations in the indictment are that Villalobos, 44, a congressional hopeful who serves as both county and district attorney, took from a wrongful death lawsuit settlement that doubled as bail and allowed convicted murderer “A.L.” a reprieve before starting a 23-year sentence.  State District Judge Abel Corral Limas, who pleaded guilty last year to running his courtroom as a cash-generating enterprise, in 2007 gave convicted murderer Amit Livingston 60 days to get his affairs in order before reporting to prison. Livingston, who pleaded guilty to murdering Hermila Hernandez of Edinburg, has now been a fugitive for more than five years.  Of the $500,000 settlement, $200,000 allegedly was attorney fees to Lucio, of which $80,000 went to Villalobos.  Other allegations against Villalobos and Lucio, 43, who is no relation to state Sen. Eddie Lucio or his son, state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, involve complex deals to dismiss cases, engineer plea deals, jiggle fines and dip into cash seizures.

“Villalobos solicited and accepted bribe money and otherwise extorted money from attorneys handling criminal cases and matters pending with the office of the district and county attorney of Cameron County, in return for favorable acts of prosecutorial discretion, including but not limited to, minimizing charging decisions, pretrial diversion agreements, agreements on probationary matters and case dismissals,” the indictment said.  Villalobos and Lucio are charged with one count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and one count of conspiracy to violate the act.  Villalobos also is charged with seven counts of extortion and three counts of honest services fraud. Lucio faces three counts of extortion and two counts of honest services fraud.  The indictment alleges that a “Person 1,” identified as a former state district judge, and Persons “G” and “E,” identified as attorneys and unindicted co-conspirators, were involved in the web of corruption, which prosecutors say dates to October 2006.  Villalobos knew the indictment was coming, calling a few local media outlets to a news conference in his office Monday morning to stand surrounded by family, admit to being under investigation and say he was innocent and had no intentions of resigning from office or dropping out of the race for Congressional District 34.  Shortly after, he and Lucio were behind closed doors in a federal courtroom, arranging to surrender to warrants and be quickly arraigned on the charges.  Both pleaded innocent and were released on $50,000 unsecured bail. They waived a reading of the indictment.  Villalobos emerged from the courthouse to cheers of about 20 supporters in red campaign T-shirts, among them the paid spokesman for the district attorney's office.  Villalobos and his two attorneys said he would be vindicated.  “We're going to go forward; I'm not going to resign from the D.A.'s office, and I'm not going to withdraw from the race,” he said. “I'm innocent of all charges. I look forward to going to court so we can get this thing over with.”  Said defense attorney Joel Androphy: “This is just a piece of paper. ... Indictments are brought by secret bodies that hear evidence in a secret fashion. We've had no ability to respond to it, no ability to rebut it, no ability to speak to the grand jury about it. ... It's one side of the story, and I promise you there is an entirely different other side of the story.”  John Blaylock, who is defending Lucio, said he, too, was looking forward to seeing what he called a “very weak” case based on coerced informants play out before a jury.  “It's going to be kind of fun,” he said. “You've got these ‘Person 1,' and ‘Person G,' like dancing chickens. ... That's what the government's done to these other people, and I feel sorry for them, but they've had a lot of heat applied to them and now they're performing. This entire indictment is based upon that kind of performance.”  Blaylock said the allegations were associated with the wide-ranging federal probe into Limas, who along with others, including former state Rep. Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis, is awaiting sentencing.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a mess in good ole' Texas. In New York, this stuff goes on but the media is controlled by the system of criminals so you never hear about it.

Anonymous said...

Justice is for sale in Texas as well as NY. But in NY, the NY media monkeys and the NY Times' monkeys, hear no NY court evil, write about no NY court evil and cover up NY court evil,except for little show trial set pieces.

Anonymous said...

Oh muh God. Cash generating courtrooms are unethical ? Well who'd have thunk it.? Someone should pass that along to DMV courtrooms.

Anonymous said...

Learned from experience. It is true that NY media cover up the dirty court business.No free press here.More like covert communism.

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