White-Collar Crime

Testimony: Lawyers promised then-judge big bucks to 'make sure things came out OK'

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When some local lawyers in South Texas wanted to “make sure things came out OK,” they used to steer their personal injury cases to Abel Limas, the former judge testified in federal court in Brownsville on Thursday. Then a 404th state district court judge, he now admits he ran his courtroom as a money-making operation.

Limas, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to racketeering, testified about the alleged scheme, along with former state Rep. Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis, who has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the conspiracy. The two were witnesses at a preliminary hearing in a case against attorney Marc G. Rosenthal of Austin, who is accused of operating his law firm as a racketeering enterprise.

Limas, Solis and other witnesses described how Rosenthal allegedly directed a scheme to manipulate the Cameron County court system to benefit his cases, according to the Associated Press and the Brownsville Herald.

Limas testified that he expected to get $500,000 from his share of a Rosenthal helicopter crash case on which he made favorable rulings before leaving the bench.

However, the defense, through cross-examination, suggested that others had acted on their own, without any direction from Rosenthal, reports the Valley Morning Star.

In addition to a charge of conspiring to bribe Limas, Rosenthal faces accusations of filing fraudulent personal injury cases in state and federal court, paying witnesses for false testimony and manipulating what was supposed to be a random case assignment system at the Cameron County District Clerk’s office.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Feds Say DA Got $80K, Judge Got $10K As They Conspired to Obtain Part of Murderer’s $500K Bail Bond”

ABAJournal.com: “Latest Lawyer Sentenced in Judicial Bribery Case Gets 3.5 Years in Federal Prison”

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