McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A man who was able to escape a 2007 murder conviction in a scheme that sent a former South Texas prosecutor and judge to prison has been captured in India, authorities said Friday.
Amit Livingston was convicted of murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison in the slaying of his former lover, Hermila Hernandez, a 31-year-old mother of three whose body was left on the beach at South Padre Island in September 2005. Hernandez had been shot in the back of the head after telling Livingston she wanted to end their relationship, according to the Cameron County district attorney's office.
"The mishandling of the Livingston case and flight from justice were the cornerstone and the centerpiece of the corruption scandal suffered by Cameron County," District Attorney Luis Saenz said in a statement. "With the convictions that followed in federal court, the citizens of Cameron County were ready to turn the page and move forward, but something was still missing: the capture of Amit Livingston."
Livingston, now 46, disappeared after the judge, Abel Limas, took the unusual step of allowing him time to get his affairs in order before reporting to prison. Limas, and the district attorney at the time, Armando Villalobos, were both later convicted in a bribery conspiracy.
The scheme that allowed Livingston to escape featured prominently in the federal corruption trial of Villalobos.
Villalobos had arranged to have a friend and former law partner represent the interests of Hernandez's three children in a related lawsuit. By agreeing to convict and sentence Livingston on the same day, Limas freed up the $500,000 bond that had been posted for his release before trial. An agreement was reached to use that bond money to settle the lawsuit. The lawyer representing the children took $200,000 of it in fees, passing $80,000 on to Villalobos and $10,000 to Limas.
At Villalobos' sentencing in February, Hermila Garcia, Hernandez's mother, told the judge, "(Villalobos) robbed us of justice to sell the murderer his freedom." Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Limas, who pleaded guilty to racketeering, received six years in prison.
Livingston was captured Tuesday in the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad. He's being held in India pending extradition to the U.S. It was not immediately clear Friday what led authorities to Livingston.