A former state district judge at the center of a federal bribery investigation that ensnared five Texas attorneys was sentenced to six years in prison by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville on August 21st.
Hanen also ordered former 404th State District Judge Abel Corral Limas to repay $6.7 million in restitution to his victims. Limas pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in 2011 [See “Scandal Spawns Convictions, Suicide, Disgorgement Efforts” Texas Lawyer, March 11, 2013, page 1.]
According to Limas’ plea packet memo, he admitted to accepting money and other compensation from attorneys and litigants appearing before him in exchange for favorable rulings, including an $8,000 payment he and a co-defendant referred to as “golf balls” for favorable rulings in a helicopter crash case. Limas also admitted that he was offered an “of counsel” position with a law firm that was pursuing the helicopter crash case and was promised at least $100,000 as well as a percentage of the attorney fees earned from that case.
“It is critical to our court system that justice is administered fairly and without any undue influence,” says Kenneth Magidson, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas whose office prosecuted Limas, in a prepared statement. “This case and the sentencing today serves as a reminder that this behavior will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Texas. We will continue our efforts against public corruption and will pursue prosecution in these matters when identified to . . . our partner law enforcement agencies.”
Houston solo Chip Lewis who represents Limas did not immediately return a call for comment.
On August 2, disbarred attorney and former State Rep. Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis was sentenced by Hanen to 47 months in prison after Solis plead guilty to aiding and abetting extortion. As part of Solis’ plea, he admitted that he paid Limas $8,000 for the “golf balls” payments.
On June 18, 2012, a Brownsville federal jury convicted attorney Ray Marchan of seven criminal counts, including a charge that he received ad litem appointments from Limas and split his fees with the then-judge.
Hanen sentenced Marchan to 42 months in prison. But on Sept 28 -- the day he was supposed to report to the U.S. Marshal's Service to begin serving his sentence -- Marchan committed suicide by jumping from the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge, according to Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio.
— John Council