Monday, April 06, 2009

JUDGE WATCH: Another Texas Judge Arrested by the FBI

You read these stories, and you just know you're seeing a future Law & Order episode ....

Last Thursday, after an investigation with an undercover FBI agent posing as a defendant pending trial, the FBI arrested El Paso state district judge Manuel J. Barraza, 53, on four counts of federal criminal activity that is being described as taking bribes and soliciting sex from defendants appearing before him.

Officially, the grand jury indictment includes three charges of "wire fraud and deprivation of honest services" and a fourth charge of lying to a federal agent. Judge Barraza has been released from custody after posting $10,000 bail.

El Paso District Attorney is Reviewing Every Case that Went Before Barraza

Meanwhile, the El Paso district attorney is reviewing every case that has gone before Judge Barraza and it's expected that some of these cases will be tossed out as a result of the prosecutor's investigation. Even though the judge has only been on the bench a short while, that review is going to encompass over 100 cases.

Apparently, it didn't take Barraza long ....

Barraza just got elected judge last November. And,according to investigators, Barraza started these solicitations for money and sex long before he took the bench in January. In fact, Barraza purportedly starting inviting defendants to pay him money and sex for his influence as a judge shortly after he won the election on November 2nd.

Shocking Blow to a Once-Promising Career

Barraza, now a grandfather of four and father of two, built a legal career as a criminal defense attorney who represented complex and notorious criminal defendants, including serial killer Richard Ramirez (known as "the Night Stalker" in the media) as his local counsel.

However, maybe there was a hint of things to come: the El Paso Times is reporting that Barraza was charged with attempting to bribe a probation officer back in 1983, but the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence.

What Happens to Manuel Barraza?

First, he's going to have to face those federal charges. Then, maybe Barraza can go back to practicing law. But his short stint as a member of the judiciary (did he even reach 90 days on the bench?) is the end of Manuel Barraza, Judge.


Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News

El Paso Times