Less than two hours after former Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos took the stand Wednesday, he had laid out his defense.
“We have what is called prosecutorial discretion,” Villalobos told the jury on Day 9 of his trial before presiding U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Villalobos’ testimony came following an indication by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Wynne that a state grand jury also is conducting an investigation into possible wrongdoing related to Villalobos and that a grand jury subpoena has been issued to the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office.
As he testified Wednesday, Villalobos visibly gained confidence as he told his story, and he rebutted statements of disgraced former 404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas that he was a mentor to Villalobos. Limas testified that both loved each other and that Villalobos was like a son.
“We clashed a lot,” Villalobos testified about the relationship he had with Limas as he served as a prosecutor in Limas’ court in 2001.
“He made me look horrible just about every day,” Villalobos said, describing Limas as an extremely difficult judge, very lenient in sentences, and one who did a lot of things that were out of the norm — things that “you couldn’t find in the rule book,” Villalobos said.
Instead, Villalobos said that a former law partner, Everardo Garcia, who also is a former Cameron County court-at-law judge, was “sort of like my godfather.”
Villalobos continues on the stand today.
Villalobos is accused of soliciting and accepting bribes from attorneys handling criminal cases and matters before his office between October 2006 and May 3, 2012, in return for access and favorable treatment. The former state prosecutor and congressional candidate also is charged with devising schemes to tap into drug-forfeiture and bond funds to enrich himself and others.
Emma Perez-Treviño writes for the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.