CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A jury on Thursday convicted an Austin personal injury attorney of racketeering charges as part of a federal investigation into judicial bribery in South Texas.
The verdict announced in Corpus Christi concluded the four-week trial of lawyer Marc Rosenthal, the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen reported (http://bit.ly/15lN21m ).
Rosenthal was found guilty of 13 counts including racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and tampering with a proceeding. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 3 and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors accused Rosenthal of bribing former state District Judge Abel Limas so that the judge would look favorably on cases Rosenthal had before his court. Part of the scheme was a job offer, while Limas was still on the bench, for the judge to work for Rosenthal's firm after he left the post.
Rosenthal was arrested in August 2011. He was the second of a dozen accused in the Brownsville corruption investigation to go to trial.
Limas has testified that Rosenthal offered him $100,000 plus a percentage of attorney's fees for cases he brought him after leaving office. While Limas was still in office, Rosenthal helped fund his campaign and promised him a cut of attorney's fees in a case, Limas said.
Prosecutors charged that the lucrative job offer was guaranteed while Limas was still on the bench with a say on Rosenthal's cases.
Limas lost his re-election bid in a March 2008 Democratic primary and, within days of leaving the bench, he went to work for Rosenthal in January 2009.
Limas estimated he would have made about $500,000 from the 10 percent of the attorney's fees he said Rosenthal had promised him in a helicopter crash case. Rosenthal was representing families of the victims in the wreck. The case did not finish before Limas left the bench, but prosecutors said he had made favorable rulings and steered the case to another of Rosenthal's preferred judges.
Federal investigators launched their probe of Limas in Brownsville in late 2007 after receiving a tip. The FBI had wiretaps on Limas' home phone and cellphones throughout 2008. The case soon expanded and half of the dozen people indicted were lawyers, including the then-Cameron County district attorney and former Texas legislator Jose Santiago "Jim" Solis, who also worked for Rosenthal. Solis pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting Limas' extortion scheme in April 2011.
Rosenthal's defense had argued that Solis and Limas acted independently of him.
Others testified that Rosenthal convinced people to change their sworn statements and even created a witness to an accident who was not there.
Prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of nearly $6 million from Rosenthal.
Information from: Valley Morning Star, http://www.valleystar.com