Judge again denies motion to acquit - Valley Morning Star : Local News

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Judge again denies motion to acquit

Rosenthal’s trial could go to jury today

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 10:38 pm

CORPUS CHRISTI — For a second time during the trial of Austin attorney Marc G. Rosenthal, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen on Monday denied the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges against him or to provide jurors with a directed verdict of acquittal.

Defense attorneys Ernesto Gamez Jr. and Paul G. Kratzig argued that the government’s evidence against their client is insufficient. The defense last week moved for dismissal or a directed verdict, and did so again Monday.

Hanen’s denial Monday came after the defense rested, having presented its case through two main witnesses, Rosenthal himself and Pete Benavides Jr., now known as Pete Benz.

Activity Monday also signaled that the government’s case against Rosenthal could go to the jury perhaps as early as today.

The government rested last week, but following the defense’s case, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Wynne and Oscar Ponce advised the court that they planned to call rebuttal witnesses.

Rosenthal, who testified late Thursday, Friday, and most of Monday has maintained on the stand that he tried to transfer two high-profile cases from ex-state District Judge Abel C. Limas’ court, not seeking a friendly court, but to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

The reason for this, he said, was because the firm was talking to Limas about a possible position with the firm after Limas’ term in office ended on Dec. 31, 2008.

Limas has testified that he transferred the two cases to the court of his friend then 357th District Judge Leonel Alejandro at Rosenthal’s and ex-state Rep. Jim Solis’ direction.

The cases are commonly referred to as the helicopter-crash case and the defamation-invasion of privacy case.

Rosenthal is on trial on federal charges that he manipulated the judicial and legal system in Cameron County to benefit his cases, himself, and others, including Limas and Solis.

The government alleges that Limas issued favorable court rulings at Rosenthal’s behest with Solis’ assistance in exchange for money, including two payments of $50,000 from each that Rosenthal and Solis made at the end of Limas’ term of office.

The government further alleges that Rosenthal and Solis had committed to paying Limas these amounts as early as April 2008 while both cases were pending before his court and he was issuing rulings on them.

Rosenthal counters that the combined $100,000 was a legitimate payment and that it was upfront payment of fees to Limas who had joined the firm as of-counsel, starting in January 2009.

Limas transferred the cases to Alejandro’s court on Dec. 1, 2008 and the transfers were officially filed the following day, Dec. 2, 2008, when Rosenthal sent Limas a letter offering employment.

The government through its witnesses alleges that Rosenthal sent Limas a letter in an attempt to cover his tracks.

Rosenthal testified that he didn’t reach an agreement with Limas until Dec. 5, 2008 when both he and Limas were in Las Vegas to attend a boxing match. Rosenthal said that they had not traveled together to Las Vegas.

The government’s first rebuttal witness on Monday was attorney Vic Feazall, a former Rosenthal associate from the late 1990s to 2004. He testified that a client involved in a gas-related explosion told him that Rosenthal had pressed him to lie and say that he had called the gas company 20 to 30 times times to report the odor of gas when it had been six to eight times.

Feazall said that after he confronted Rosenthal, he soon left ‘s firm, took the case with him, and said that he subsequently filed amended documents stating the true number of calls that had been made to the gas company.

Feazall’s testimony continues today.

eperez-trevino@valleystar.com

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