Criminal Justice

Rogue ex-court clerk sentenced for taking bribes to alter computer files in more than 1,000 cases

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A former court clerk in Orange County, California, has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for taking bribes to dismiss charges or reduce the punishment in more than 1,000 drunken-driving and traffic cases.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton sentenced Jose Lopez Jr., 37, of Anaheim, on Friday, report Bloomberg BNA, the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register. He had pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy in March.

Lopez was accused of taking about $420,000 to make changes in the computer system. Prosecutors said Lopez changed records to indicate that DUI defendants had pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and to make it appear that defendants had served their jail sentences, according to previous coverage by the Register.

Staton said Lopez had used bribe money for travel and to buy a Mexican restaurant and a BMW. He was motivated by greed, she said.

Lopez offered his own explanation in a letter to the court. “Fixing tickets became my drug,” he stated. “I was strongly addicted. The rush empowered me. It was the high that I never felt before, as if I were more powerful. While drinking with friends, I joked that I could do the job of a judge.”

Ten others have also pleaded guilty in the scheme.

Related article: “Rogue clerk may have altered records in more than 1,000 cases”

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