Tapes show sequence of events in Rosenthal case - Valley Morning Star : Local News

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Tapes show sequence of events in Rosenthal case

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Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:40 pm

CORPUS CHRISTI — Prosecutors are attempting to show a cause and effect relationship between Marc G. Rosenthal, Abel C. Limas and Jim Solis.

One sequence of events summarized for the jury began on the morning of April 25, 2008. Limas, then a state district judge in the 404th court, held a hearing in his court regarding Rosenthal’s motion for a continuance in a civil dispute, court records reflect.

The litigation is commonly referred to as the defamation/invasion of privacy case.

Limas said that he would issue his ruling later.

Later in the day, he had dinner with Rosenthal and Solis, a former state representative who was of-counsel to Rosenthal, at Dirty Al’s Seafood Restaurant at South Padre Island. Limas has testified that they talked about the cases and future employment with Rosenthal’s firm.

About an hour or so after dinner, Limas called his son Abel Jr. to give him the good news. He said he stood to get $100,000 in joining Rosenthal’s law firm as of-counsel “just to use my name,” plus 40 percent of attorney fees for cases he referred to the firm while still being able to maintain a criminal law practice.

“Almost without exception, (Limas) calls family members to tell them what happened,” FBI Special Agent Mark J. Gripka testified Wednesday as he laid out what the prosecution maintains is the correlation between motions, court hearings, orders, telephone calls and texts amassed during the years’ long federal inquiry into public corruption, which branched out to the federal case against Rosenthal.

The defense maintains that Rosenthal was not aware of the dealings between Solis, Limas and others, and that he had not made an offer of employment to Limas until Dec. 2, 2008.

Rosenthal is on trial in Corpus Christi, charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy and bribing Limas in exchange for favorable court rulings, specifically in two civil lawsuits commonly referred to as the helicopter case and the defamation/invasion of privacy litigation.

On April 26, 2008, the day after the dinner at Dirty Al’s, Limas had a conversation with then-357th District Judge Leonel Alejandro, where, Gripka testified and a tape recording showed, Limas told Alejandro that he was going to transfer the defamation case to Alejandro. “It’s going to my buddy,” Limas tells him.

“(They’re going to get screwed). It’s not going to stay in that —— court,” Limas told Alejandro, referring to defense attorneys and the case not remaining in the 404th District Court.

Shortly after this call, Solis called Limas. “I love that ———— deal,” Limas tells Solis. “There’s a lot to go around,” Solis tells Limas, while Limas said that he was “pretty satisfied” with the amount, referring to the $100,000.

Limas issued the order April 29,2008.

Gripka testified that on May 7 and 8, 2008, there were a series of calls, including one between Solis and Limas regarding the “golf ball” payment of $8,000 that Solis delivered to Limas, who has testified that the payment was for favorable court rulings. Limas and Solis discussed the payment May 8, 2008.

Gripka testified that there were three calls between Rosenthal and Solis on May 7, and four calls between them May 8, plus four texts from Solis to Rosenthal on May 8.

In a July 2008 call between Solis and Limas, they discussed the defamation case. Solis told Limas that they needed to reset a hearing on a summary judgment for several weeks or a month so they could focus on taking the deposition of former District Attorney Yolanda De Leon.

“That would be a good excuse,” Limas pondered in the taped conversation. “I’ll find out how to do it,” he adds.

Gripka testified that Rosenthal preferred that Limas reset the hearing on his own initiative without the filing of a motion, because on its face, it would appear that Limas had taken this step independently.

On Aug. 28, 2008, Rosenthal, Solis, Limas, and then District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos had lunch at 2:30 p.m. at Johnny Carino’s Italian Restaurant in Brownsville, where Solis and Limas have testified that the cases were discussed, as well as Limas’ employment.

“Ando bien contento (I’m very happy),” Limas tells his wife in a 3:38 p.m. call after the lunch, noting that Rosenthal and Solis were going to give him $100,000 up front, plus a cut on attorney fees on the helicopter case and a case that he made ex-attorney Joe Valle refer to Rosenthal.

“Why is that?” Limas’ wife asked him.

On Oct. 16, 2008, Limas had supper with Solis and Rosenthal at 6:35 p.m. at the Red Lobster in Brownsville.

Limas called his wife at 7:54 p.m.

“The check comes in Jan. 2 (2009),” Limas told her.

On Nov. 26, 2008, Limas denied the defense’s amended motion for summary judgment.

Limas transferred the case to Alejandro’s court Dec. 1 2008.

On Dec. 2, 2008, Rosenthal sent a letter to Limas making an offer of employment.

On Dec. 31, 2008, and Jan. 1, 2009, Limas received $50,000 each from Rosenthal and Solis, according to court documents. Limas subsequently received another $100,000 combined from Rosenthal and Solis as his cut of attorney fees on the helicopter case and the case he made Valle refer to Rosenthal, according to testimony.

eperez-trevino@valleystar.com