The jury took about four hours Wednesday to find Judge Regina Arditti not guilty on all counts of an indictment alleging she entered into an agreement involving an exchange of courthouse jobs, official abuse and bribery.
The trial, which was in its eighth day, involved convicted former Judge Manny Barraza, protected federal witness David Beagas, the FBI and a slew of courthouse employees. Defense attorneys described the state’s case as a political prosecution aimed at harming the career of Judge Arditti.
The not guilty verdict confirmed the defense team’s decision to rest their case without calling any witnesses. They say the prosecution’s case proved that Judge Arditti had not committed the alleged bribery or abuse of official capacity.
“The community has spoken on many different levels. This is a damning verdict for District Attorney Jaime Esparza, and this verdict proves this trial was nothing more than a political prosecution of Judge Arditt,” said defense attorney Theresa Caballero .
The state’s case, which included mainly courthouse employees, focused entirely on circumstantial evidence and the word of Beagas, who during testimony admitted he lied to law enforcement officials.
“Justice has prevailed,” said Judy Adams, a long-time friend of Judge Arditti who sat through the entire length of the trial.
The jury, which was forged during a heated selection process, was composed of 11 women and one man. Throughout the trial the jurors listened intently to testimony and questioned several pieces of evidence, including an exhibit the prosecution presented that revealed the Social Security numbers of witnesses.
The defense team of Caballero and Stuart Leeds were found in contempt of court by visiting Judge Steve Smith, who the defense alleged is racist and biased. The two attorneys are expected to fight the contempt allegations.
Earlier in the day, Caballero filed a motion seeking sanctions against Kyle Lasley assistant district attorney, alleging a Brady violation. The Brady notice, part of the code of ethics for lawyers, requires attorneys who have information about a fellow counselor participating in wrongdoing to report it to the bar association.
According to a copy of the motion, Lasley allegedly withheld information from the defense described as “exculpatory,” meaning it should have been made available to Judge Arditti’s defense team.
The information was an interview of another person who was at a meeting where the alleged agreement was discussed. That person denied the alleged agreement was mentioned. The motion involving the Brady violation was denied by Judge Smith without explanation.
“It’s amazing that we are found in contempt,” Caballero said, “but the judge denies a motion that a prosecutor was hiding evidence. That shows you how bias the judge was.”
The trial was filled with heated exchanges between the state and the defense. At one point, prosecutors filed a motion to have attorneys Leeds and Caballero removed from the case, alleging their behavior would make it impossible for a fair trial to be held.
Judge Smith also admonished the defense team, saying he had never seen such bad behavior by attorneys in a courtroom.