DA seeks to drop nepotism case against TX judge

AP News
Posted: May 17, 2011 6:05 PM
DA seeks to drop nepotism case against TX judge

Prosecutors in West Texas said Tuesday they will seek to drop a corruption case against a state judge already imprisoned for a bribery scandal in which he requested sexual favors.

The announcement from the El Paso County district attorney's office comes less than a week after it unsuccessfully prosecuted another judge in a related nepotism case.

"It really doesn't make much sense to continue the prosecution of (former judge Manuel) 'Manny' Barraza after last week's verdict," D.A. Jaime Esparza said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Associated Press.

Renee Railey, a spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office, said that the judge in charge of Barraza's case still has to sign the dismissal before it is official.

Former District Judge Barraza was scheduled for trial May 23 on allegations he made an illegal arrangement with State District Judge Regina Arditti to hire each other's relatives for courtroom jobs. She employed Barraza's sister as court coordinator while Barraza hired Arditti's son as a bailiff.

The prosecutors tried to convince the jury that with the alleged agreement both judges conspired to circumvent a law that prohibits officials from hiring their own family members.

"Last week the jury very clearly indicated that they didn't believe there was an agreement ... it's unlikely that another jury would have believed the other side (of the agreement) occurred," said Esparza.

A jury acquitted Arditti last Wednesday and she has returned to the bench. Arditti was found not guilty of two bribery counts, two counts of abuse of official capacity and one count of prohibition applicable to trading. Barraza would have been tried for the same offenses.

Barraza was sentenced last July to five years in an unrelated federal case for scheming to obtain money and sexual favors in exchange for helping a woman who faced cocaine smuggling charges.

Also, Esparza said that even if Barraza was convicted for the nepotism charges, he would have been likely sentenced to serve the prison time concurrently, instead of stacking it on top of his current prison term.