Arditti Defense: "Today was fantastic for the defense"
POSTED: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - 5:28pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 11:31pm
EL PASO – This morning the prosecuting attorney asked a judge to kick the defense attorneys off a case, the defense attorneys asked the judge to throw himself off the case. Then the defendant - a suspended state judge – told the presiding judge she has a right to pick whatever defense attorney she wants.
All this happened on Day One of the Regina Arditti corruption trial.
Arditti is accused of hiring the relative of another judge and in return the other judge hired one of Arditti's relatives.
Arditti is represented by defense attorneys Theresa Caballero and Stuart Leeds. Both Caballero and Leeds are well-known courtroom brawlers with a bare-knuckle style that can upset button-down courtroom traditionalists. Caballero and Leeds say their client is being prosecuted as political payback.
"Political prosecutions don't just take place in Russia," Stuart Leeds said. He said when Arditti didn't plead guilty to a misdemeanor; the district attorney's office vindictively re-indicted her on felony charges.
Caballero and Leeds have indicated that they will attack District Attorney Jaime Esparza for his own ethical behavior and as a possible preemptive move, the assistant district attorney this morning asked visiting District Judge Steven Smith to order Caballero and Leeds thrown off the case.
Judge Smith denied the request but not without a verbal reprimand. "I have never seen the conduct of these attorneys on a case," he said. "I'm not saying I'm going to permanently deny it if this conduct continues."
The prosecution claimed that the defense was making personal attacks, not sticking to the facts of the case, and not following the courts orders.
While Caballero said she would "not dignify that with a response,” Arditti did.
"I have the right to have the attorney of my choice," said Arditti. "The state is trying to violate my rights. (They tried to) coerce me to plead for things I'm not guilty of. At the time my father died, they threatened to take me to a grand jury the day of the rosary."
Caballero then asked for Judge Smith to recuse himself, claiming he was threatening them. Smith declined to recuse himself.
Later during a break in the case, Caballero told NewsChannel 9, "He's threatening to remove us. The motion (to throw us out) is denied for now but he's going to consider it, hanging over our head and sanctioning us. He has done nothing but threaten the defense."
The first prosecution witness is now on the stand, reading from grand jury testimony. In the transcript, Arditti is explaining the process she used to hire a court coordinator, court reporter, and a bailiff.
"I think the mood of today was fantastic for the defense," Leeds added. "I think the jury is riveted to finally find out what's behind this case."