White-Collar Crime

Ex-judge gets 6 years in bribe case as ex-DA awaits sentencing; murder victim's mom gets no apology

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A former South Texas judge who admittedly took bribes, then served as a star witness at the trial of a former district attorney and other lawyers after pleading guilty in 2011 to a single federal racketeering count, has been sentenced to six years in federal prison.

In addition to serving time and and a subsequent term of probation, Abel C. Limas, 57, was also ordered to pay $6.7 million in restitution, according to the San Antonio Express-News and a FBI press release. The former 404th Judicial District jurist was accused of accepting over $250,000 in bribes in exchange for court favors. His sentence reflected his cooperation with federal prosecutors in the Brownsville case.

“Never will I sit again, never will I practice again,” Limas told the court, after apologizing for conduct that he knew was “very wrong” and trying to maintain his composure. “I believe, judge, that I righted this wrong.”

Meanwhile, the mother of a murdered woman, who saw the convicted defendant in her daughter’s slaying released on a 60-day pass by Limas, never to return to serve his 23-year prison term, said she didn’t speak at the ex-judge’s sentencing only because she was never notified of the date, the Valley Morning Starreports. Family members told the newspaper that the state seated them in the back of the courtroom for murder defendant Amit M. Livingston’s sentencing, and they understood little of what was going on because English is not their primary language.

Federal prosecutors said Limas, then-Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, and a former law partner of the then-DA participated in a scheme to use Livingston’s $500,000 cash bond to pay $300,000 in damages in a civil case brought by the victim’s husband on behalf of their children. A $200,000 attorney fee was paid to the law partner’s firm, and the feds alleged that $80,000 was kicked back to Villalobos. Livingston is now believed to be living in a large city in India.

Villalobos was convicted at trial of racketeering and extortion earlier this year and awaits sentencing. However, his former law partner was acquitted on all charges earlier this month.

“They mocked and deceived our family,” said Hermila Garcia, mother of victim Hermilia Hernandez, who was shot to death at age 31 by Livingston.

Limas has apologized to others, she said, but not to her family.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Trial begins for final lawyer charged in judicial bribery scheme; convicted ex-judge is star witness”

ABAJournal.com: “Ethics probe ordered after lawyer’s acquittal in court corruption case”

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