The magistrate in Judge Regina Arditti’s trial on Saturday withdrew an arrest warrant issued for her son, who was set to testify in the case against his mother for bribery and abuse of official capacity.
Dante Vance, 28, was called to the witness stand Friday, but could not be found in the courthouse where he was asked to be present under subpoena. According to the summons, Vance was required to be present May 2nd and as many days as needed thereafter, but the document wasn’t served, or given to him, until a day later.
“I have talked to the judge and he has rescinded the issue to remand,” said Theresa Caballero, who along with Stuart Leeds is defending Judge Arditti. “Mr. Vance will be in court at 8:15 in the morning on Monday to testify.”
Judge Arditti is on trial for allegedly entering into an agreement with convicted former Judge Manny Barraza to hire each other’s relatives. Prosecutors allege that Judge Arditti agreed to hire Barraza’s sister Sally Mena as court coordinator in exchange for Barraza hiring her son as bailiff.
Judge Arditti is on trial for alleged bribery and abuse of official capacity. Mena and Vance no longer work at the courthouse.
Vance, who had no prior law enforcement experience for the nearly $60,000 a year job, was described by prosecution witnesses on Friday as both scrawny and muscular. Several of the witnesses said he was often absent and often had to be called back to service from a third-floor area of the courthouse parking garage where smokers gather.
Defense attorneys have cried foul, alleging that the District Attorney’s Office has launched a vendetta against Judge Arditti after she refused to plea guilty to a charge of nepotism. They say that the DA is using the trial to make Judge Arditti look bad, and that the prosecutors are receiving help from visiting Judge Steve Smith of Brazos County.
The defense attorneys allege Judge Smith is unfair and is much more lenient with prosecutors, even assisting them with questions during the trial. They say that the state’s case is irrelavent and that witnesses have been coached.
Prosecution witness Martha Banales, a 30-year employee of the courthouse, admitted during testimony Friday that she did not receive a subpoena from the DA to testify in the trial. She said a prosecutor simply telephoned her to come and testify.
It is unclear what prosecutors hope to elicit from Vance during his testimony on Monday. So far only David Beagas, who was the key witness in federal court against Barraza, has testified he had knowledge of the alleged agreement between Judge Arditti and Barraza.
Beagas, a practicing attorney, entered into an agreement with federal prosecutors that gave him immunity from prosecution. He does not have that same agreement with state prosecutors.
During testimony Mena, who was paid more than $35,000 a year as court coordinator, denied having any personal knowledge of the alleged agreement, the bribery or abuse of official capacity allegations.
The other witnesses who have testified, mainly courthouse employees, have also denied any knowledge that they knew about the judges’ agreement, or of the bribery and abuse of official capacity prosecutors have alleged.