Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against accused Judge Regina Arditti, who has been indicted on allegations she used her position as an elected official to benefit herself, her family and others.
Defense attorneys, after returning from a lunch break, promptly rested their case without calling a single witness. The defense has repeatedly turned prosecution witnesses and has gotten them to testify in favor of Judge Arditti.
“The state proved that the defendant is innocent and we didn’t have to put on any witnesses,” said defense attorney Theresa Caballero.
The state’s case, which came to a close following the testimony of an FBI agent, is based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence. The prosecutors say that when taken as a whole, the circumstantial evidence proves there was an alleged illegal agreement between Judge Arditti and convicted former Judge Manny Barraza.
When the state rested its case at about 9:45 a.m., defense attorneys quickly moved to have visiting Judge Steve Smith declare a direct verdict. They say the prosecution failed to provided any evidence that Judge Arditti was involved in the so-called agreement, or that she was part of any bribery or abuse of official capacity.
“The defense is asking for a direct verdict of not guilty on all five counts because there is no evidence that Judge Arditti received anything of value and there is no evidence she benefitted from any of the allegations,” said defense attorney Stuart Leeds.
“This is a political prosecution and for them (state prosecutors) to end their case the way they did. It shows you how dumb the prosecution is.”
Following a break and the jury not in the courtroom, Judge Smith denied the defense motion for a direct verdict and instructed the defense to begin presenting its case after 1 p.m.
Defense attorneys Leeds and Caballero quickly rested their case without bringing anyone to the witness stand. Jurors were sent home and the judge will listen to motions from both prosecutors and defense attorneys Wednesday morning.
The week-long trial has involved a list of prosecution witnesses, mainly District Court employees, who all admitted to having no personal knowledge of any wrongdoing by Judge Arditti.
The final two witnesses presented by the state were attorney David Beagas, who was the key witness in the federal trial of Barraza.
Beagas, who is a practicing attorney, testified for a second time Tuesday that he was at a meeting with Barraza and his sister Sally Mena when Mena stated the “deal was not going to go through.”
Defense attorneys say the statement is hearsay and have gotten Beagas during cross examination to admit that he has lied to law enforcement investigators.
The final witness on Tuesday was Chad Astrip, an FBI special agent, who testified he and several other federal law officials interviewed Judge Arditti. He said she was questioned about a transfer of cases from the court once run by Barraza to Judge Arditti’s court.
Defense attorney Leeds asked Astrip if there was anything wrong with a judge transferring cases from one court to another. He responded that there was not.
Leeds said Judge Arditti was not subpoenaed by the federal investigators, but voluntarily made herself available to them.
“She answered all our questions,” said FBI agent Astrip before being excused .
Wait, let me get this straight! The defense called NO witnesses? Does this mean they have no one to support Arditti? Why didn’t they call Arditti? Is the defense afraid of what Arditti might say?
Why call witnesses when the State already proved Arditti did nothing wrong?
Oh, yes, Randy. Arditti DID testify. The first prosecution witness was the reading of her Grand Jury testimony, taken under the “watchful” eye of ADA Kyle Lasley.
The defendant NEVER has to testify: it’s the sole burden of the prosecution to prove each and every element of the charge against the person they’re charging with a crime. There was no reason to call anyone for the defense when the prosecution’s witnesses apparently did such a great job for the defendant! It’s too bad that the judge lacked the guts to rule for the directed verdict, but it’s not uncommon, either. Most judges would rather leave decisions in the hands of the jury. It sounds like TC and Stuart did their usual amazing job in this trial and I feel confident the jury will vote for an aquittal.
Based on the lack of any evidence of guilt, the jury must acquit. The state did a terrible job.
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