Evidence

Stamp on letter led cops to tattooed man who said he was judge's son and took cash for case help


Although he has several tattoos on his face, Mark David Leal nonetheless convinced several individuals that he was the son of one of two prominent Texas women: Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed or District Judge Juanita Vasquez-Gardner.

Then, according to court documents, he convinced these individuals to give him thousands of dollars to use his influence with his “mother” to help with a legal matter, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

The scheme unraveled when the judge received a letter at home from Robert Dylan Howard in September 2011. It threatened that the sender would “choose an alternative route” or “open up a new can of worms” if the judge’s son didn’t return the $3,500 he had paid to have his driving while intoxicated and drug possession cases erased from the courthouse computer system. Vasquez-Gardner, who doesn’t have an adult son and had no idea what the letter was about, handled it with tweezers and turned it over to authorities, the newspaper recounts.

They traced it back to Howard via a stamp that had been issued by an automated machine. He cooperated with the investigation against Leal and pleaded guilty earlier this month in federal court to threatening a judge.

Leal pleaded no contest last month to stealing $3,500 from Howard, a gym acquaintance. Tuesday, at his sentencing, he apologized to District Judge Ron Rangel for his “pure stupidity” and asked for probation.

Rangel gave him two years in jail, the maximum term, and said he was sorry he couldn’t impose more time.

Leal didn’t simply use Vasquez-Gardner’s name in order to steal from someone else, Rangel told him. “You put her in danger. You get that, right?”

See also:

San Antonio Express-News: “Man who thought he bought off judge charged with threatening ex-jurist”

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