The Robes Come Back On
EL PASO - She's acquitted on all bribery and nepotism charges. It took two years to clear her name, but now judge Regina Arditti has her job back.
Just moments ago she returned to her bench after being found 'not guilty' of making a deal with former judge Manny Barraza to hire each other's relatives.
Arditti's attorney, Stuart Leeds, says the judge left town without signing a paper that would lift her suspension. So despite being ready to, she couldn't don the robes she was elected to wear until Thursday evening.
"I've been ready since the verdict came in, I'm ready to come back," Arditti said.
She was accused of getting a job for her son, Dante Vance, in former judge Barraza's court in return for giving Barraza's sister, Sally Mena, a job in hers.
"So much money has been wasted that were taxpayer dollars, for false accusations," Arditti added. Yesterday the district attorney released a statement saying, "We accept the jury verdict. We thought we had a strong case, but we believe in the process."
Arditti says the last two years have been the worst for her and her family.
"Our life as a family, everything has been dragged through the mud," said Arditti's daughter, Anatasha Vance. Vance is studying law, but she says she almost threw in the towel after seeing what her mother, and brother, went through.
"The media, the whole prosecution, tried to pin him up against his mother, against our mother," Anatasha Vance said.
Defense attorney Stuart Leeds admitted it was stressful for him, too.
"Was there ever a point where you thought, we might lose this?" we asked.
"Yes, there was, I guess when the court called me and told me we have a verdict, at that point you never know," Leeds said.
But just because the verdict is in doesn't mean it's over. Visiting judge Steven Smith fined prosecutor Kyle Lasley twenty dollars for violating the rules of the court.
He also admonished Leeds and attorney Theresa Caballero, fining them thousands of dollars and asking the State Bar Association to investigate their conduct. But the feeling is mutual.
"The lows of the trial were some of the demoralizing rulings we got from the judge," Leeds said.
Leeds says the judge has had it in for them from the beginning and that his conduct wasn't contempt, it was trial advocacy.
"Judge Smith's contempt is not going to be the final word on it, we're entitled to have another judge come in," Leeds said.
He says if they have to, they'll go to a jury trial to defend their law licenses.
"We'll put our faith in 12 good old fashioned jurors from El Paso any time," Leeds said.