POSTED: Monday, March 14, 2011 - 6:11pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 10:35am
EL PASO - A judge found herself on the other side of the bench today. Regina Arditti is accused of making a pact to hire the sister of former judge Manuel Barraza if he hired her son as a bailiff.
After Arditti's attorneys tried to get the judge thrown out for bigotry, they now say they're being railroaded. But today the judge did throw out one felony count.
'"This case is a case of political prosecution," said attorney Stuart Leeds. He and Theresa Caballero are representing former El Paso district judge Arditti. She was originally charged with a misdemeanor, but her attorneys claim district attorney Jaime Esparza added more charges with no new evidence.
"When she refused to plead guilty, he vindictively re-indicted her on a six count, now a five count indictment," Leeds said.
But prosecutors say its not unusual for new charges to be added later. Leeds says the judge, Steven Smith from Brazos County, isn't helping.
"The judge quashed every single one of our 11 subpoenas so we have no witnesses to put on, he quashed subpoenas of 3 people who weren't even here, they're violating the subpoenas," Leeds said. He says Esparza is one of those in violation, because he is prosecuting David Marmolejo in San Antonio. Judge Smith did not see it necessary to have Esparza testify in the hearing.
But Leeds says the charges should be dropped altogether. He and Caballero allege that Esparza is in violation of nepotism himself. Back in May, we asked Esparza about their allegations.
"There's no violation of the nepotism law here; it's not true and there's no violation of nepotism law," Esparza said at the time.
Caballero and Leeds aren't satisfied with that response and are trying to have court documents unsealed that they say would prove otherwise. If convicted Arditti could face up to 20 years in prison.
"We have a duty to fight, to file the motions we need to file," Caballero said.
We reached out to the district attorney's office today. They said because the case is still pending, they would not comment outside the courtroom. The case goes to trial next month.