A newly elected felony District Judge in El Paso, Manuel Barraza, was arrested this week for allegedly dismissing or offering to dismiss drug cases in exchange for money and sexual favors. According to the El Paso Times ("District Judge Manuel Barraza charged with bribery," April 3):
In just three months on the bench, the indictment said, Barraza sought bribes from women and solicited a bribe from an undercover female agent, who helped the FBI build the case against him.The El Paso DA's office is reviewing
Barraza's encounter with the undercover agent occurred Feb. 5, according to the indictment. He allegedly promised to intervene in a felony case filed against her friend. Barraza also said he would transfer the case to his court if the woman had sex with him, the indictment stated.
Barraza allegedly gave her the name of a lawyer that she should hire. Then the law yer, not identified in the indictment, was to request that the case be transferred to Barraza's court.
The criminal case was never moved to Barraza's docket, records show.
Because of Barraza's immediate suspension, his caseload will have to be divided among other judges.
Under Texas law, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct may suspend a judge from office immediately upon his indictment. Barraza has 30 days to appeal.
The local website, Newspaper Tree, wonders why the US Attorney instead of the local DA is prosecuting the cases, but that's a pretty typical result in a federal corruption investigation.
More concerning to me is the possibility that this isn't just a case of personal malfeasance, but that Barrraza was put in this position by individuals associated with drug smugglers to benefit from his corruption. The feds should be checking into his campaign supporters in addition to Barraza's own finances to discover whether this was merely a case of personal weakness and greed, or a full-blown conspiracy by drug smugglers to knowingly elect a corrupt district judge.
UPDATE: Newspaper Tree has a copy of the indictment (pdf).
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