White-Collar Crime

Defendant attorney takes stand in latest corruption trial linked to convicted judge

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An Austin lawyer being tried in a criminal corruption case linked to a South Texas judge who has already been convicted of racketeering has taken the stand in his own defense in federal court in Corpus Christi.

Marc G. Rosenthal, who is charged with conspiring to bribe then-404th District Judge Abel C. Limas for beneficial rulings in civil suits, has insisted that he was unaware of dealings between Limas, former state representative Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis and others concerning cash allegedly paid for Cameron County court favors. Rosenthal, who is accused of running his law firm as a racketeering enterprise, is additionally charged with conspiring to bribe not only the judge but witnesses in state and federal cases.

A KGBT article reports that the Rosenthal defense team has also accused Limas of lying about some details in the case, after cutting a deal with the feds to protect two relatives from possible prosecution.

Prosecutors have tried to show the jury what the feds say is a cause-and-effect relationship concerning events such as an April 25, 2008 dinner. Present were Rosenthal, Limas and Solis, after a hearing that morning in the judge’s court concerning a defamation case that Rosenthal was handling, the Valley Morning Star reported earlier this week.

Limas testified that conversation at the meal focused on the case and his future employment with Rosenthal’s law firm.

Another witness said he was paid $10,000 through a relative who works for Rosenthal’s law firm to testify in a railroad case about a train wreck that he did not actually witness, the Associated Press reported.

Now, two weeks into the trial, Rosenthal is taking the stand to tell his side of the story. Late in the day Thursday, he began by telling the jury how he enjoyed “representing David against Goliath” in cases against big companies and he is expected to continue his testimony Friday, another Associated Press article reports.

His prosecution initially was pursued in Brownsville, but was moved to Corpus Christi.

In addition to Limas and Solis, who have not yet been sentenced, two other lawyers have been convicted in related cases.

They are Ray R. Marchan and now-disbarred attorney Jose Martin “Joe” Valle, who is serving a 13-month federal prison sentence.

Valle was recently sued by the IRS, which is seeking $773,517.46 in back taxes and penalties “plus statutory additions,” according to KGBT.

Still awaiting trial is a former Cameron County district attorney, Armando R. Villalobos, who is accused under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of of running his office as a racketeering enterprise. A former law partner of Villalobos, Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio, also faces a criminal case.

An superseding indictment (PDF) against the two was handed down last month by a grand jury in Brownsville, as a KGBT article reported at the time.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Testimony: Lawyers promised then-judge big bucks to ‘make sure things came out OK’”

KGBT: “Opening arguments in the Marc Rosenthal trial “

Valley Morning Star: “Testimony: Rosenthal boasted he owned Limas”

Valley Morning Star: “Rosenthal trial: Quotable quotes”

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