Commentary: The Arditti trial, was justice served?

Growing up in Mexico, one of the first things I always heard about America was how the American judicial system was fair, especially in relation to the Mexican one. In America, I was told, the notion of innocent until proven guilty is sacrosanct to the Americans. The right to have your say in front of a jury of your peers is the driving force behind the system. In America, I was led to believe, was that the judicial process was about finding the truth and getting justice for all.
 
Unfortunately what I read about the Regina Arditti trial on Dena Richardson’s KFOX TV blog and Sonny Lopez’ reporting in this publication and speaking to the attorneys involved in the case has proven to me that in El Paso, the process is not about justice – but about political vendettas.
 
I first become aware of the Arditti prosecution when the El Paso district attorney filed misdemeanor charges against her for nepotism. Although the charges were misdemeanor, they nonetheless would have resulted in the loss of Judge Arditti’s bench and her livelihood, had she been found guilty. Expecting a trial to go forward to determine the veracity of the district attorney’s case, the next thing I hear is that Arditti is scheduled to plead guilty on June 4, 2010. This was announced by District Attorney Jaime Esparza through the media.
 
On May 28, 2010, the media reports that Arditti has fired her attorney, Joe Spenser and hired Theresa Caballero and Stuart Leeds as her counsel. And she states to the media that she never agreed to plead guilty.
 
On one hand, Jaime Esparza is stating, via the media, that Arditti is pleading guilty and on the other hand, she has fired her attorney and hired new ones. If the notion is about getting to the truth then why would the district attorney announce that Arditti was pleading guilty while she is denying it?
 
After this public exchange, the district attorney drops misdemeanor charges and files felony charges against Arditti. Now, instead of possibly losing her bench, the judge is now facing some serious jail time. Are these actions, by the district attorney, about getting to the truth or is it a personal vendetta? Is it a case of you are not doing what I’m demanding of you and now I’m going to make your life miserable by not only threatening your livelihood but also threatening to put you in jail as well? Or is it about justice?
 
Fast forward almost a year later and the long anticipated trial begins. From the KFOX reporting and Richardson’s blog and Sonny’s articles in this publication I piece together the events of the trial. The prosecution produces witness after witness, and except for one witness whom the defense attorneys prove is testifying under the threat of going to jail himself, testify that they are not aware of any agreement between Arditti and Barraza, which is the nexus to the prosecution’s case.
 
Each prosecution witness seems to me to be a witness for the defense yet they are being called by the prosecutors. Where’s the “smoking gun” I keep asking myself? Surely, there has to be much more than this? It’s about the truth, I keep telling myself.
 
Oh, and the one witness the prosecutors were able to muster turns out to be a lawyer who sees nothing wrong with meeting a stripper in a hotel room for a “business” meeting. The whole Arditti case rested on this one individual.
 
Finally, the state rests and it’s the defense’s turn to call their witnesses. But, they do not call any witnesses; instead they rest their case without putting up a single defense!
 
The Caballero-Leeds defense team calls no witnesses and other than closing statements reminding the jury that the prosecution did not prove their case, they offer no defense. In less than three hours the jury agrees and finds Arditti not guilty on all counts.
 
Regina Arditti is not guilty, something she proclaimed from day one. But was justice served?
 
Arditti was judged by 12 members of her peers. They heard the prosecution present the case and heard the defense say there is no case. And they rendered their not guilty verdict.
 
Some would argue that justice was served; I on the other hand, question that assertion. Regina Arditti and her family’s lives were tested to the limits for over a year as she lived under the indictment proffered by Jaime Esparza.
 
Not to mention the thousands of dollars she spent on her defense. And, let’s not forget the amount the community, you and I, spent on her prosecution through the judge, the prosecutors, the jury and all that is required to keep the court house running. On top of that we had to pay for another judge to keep Arditti’s court running. But was justice served?
 
Regina Arditti proclaimed her innocence and yet she and all of us paid to have a jury proclaim her innocent. But was justice served?
 
Arditti was accused of nepotism at the County of El Paso, something we all hear rumors of as being common place at the County building. So, as the rumors proclaim, is nepotism rampant at the county? And if so, why is Arditti the only one to be charged? And if not, again, why was Arditti the only one charged?
 
Could it be that the Arditti trial was not about justice but rather about political vendettas as the defense team has asserted?
 
It has to be, because the trial was definitely not about justice. Prosecutors presented their case and the defense said there was no case and presented no witnesses. The jury agreed with the defense.
 
Although, I’m not willing to agree that the American system is better, there is one thing I have to acknowledge, were it not for a capable defense team and a jury of 12 citizens then the travesty that was the Arditti indictment would have ended in yet another travesty, the incarceration of Judge Arditti.
 
But, the fact that one person has the power to ruin someone’s life by filling charges that can’t even produce one reliable witness for the prosecution only reinforces my feeling that the American legal system is just as bad, if not worse than the others, especially in El Paso county.

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