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Plea Deal Falls Through, Suspended Judge Faces More Serious Charge

Suspended State Judge Regina Arditti, who is fighting accusation of nepotism, may be facing a much more serious charge of bribery. After a plea deal fell through, El Paso’s district attorney Jaime Esparza said he is moving forward with the case against her.

“I don’t think if it goes from nepotism to bribery, it changes the importance,” Esparza said. “This is an important case, but certainly the range of punishment changes. You go from a Class C misdemeanor to a felony.”

It will now be up to private attorneys Theresa Caballero and Stuart Leeds to fight Arditti’s case. Arditti was previously represented by Joe Spencer who was negotiating the plea deal. She is charged with hiring a relative of convicted state judge Manuel Barraza.

“Recently, Jaime Esparza has informed our client that if she doesn’t plead guilty to the Class C misdemeanor chages, and give up her bench, that he is going to take her back to the grand jury and indict her on a felony,” Caballero said. “This is an improper use of his powers as a district attorney.”

Caballero now wants the District Attorney’s office barred from handling this case.

“This courthouse, and in particular this office, is rife, rank and rampant with nepotism,” Caballero said. “The hiring friends of friends, and the hiring relatives of friends.”

In a motion filed on Thursday, Caballero alleged Esparza is “best friends” with Arditti’s prior attorney, Spencer. In the document, she also alleged an unprofessional relationship between him and his personal secretary.

Since the case unfolded in November, Arditti has been suspended with pay. She makes $140,000 dollars a year.

Stephen Ables, the administrative judge for the 6th region of Texas, said her caseload has been primarily handed over to retired Judge Susan Larson. It costs state taxpers about $540 dollars every day she fills in on the bench.

The case against Arditti is set to go to trial on July 26.

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