Texas lawyer gets 3½ years in corruption case
Texas lawyer sentenced to 3½ years in corruption case linked to judge who accepted bribes
A South Texas attorney convicted of bribing a lower court judge in exchange for legal favors was sentenced to 3½ years in prison Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said it was "painful" to sentence Ray Marchan, whom he called a talented individual.
Marchan was the first of a dozen suspects swept up in a four-year investigation of former state District Judge Abel Limas to go to trial. Limas has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Marchan in June was convicted on seven counts, including racketeering. Hanen this week overturned one mail fraud conviction.
Prosecutors accused Marchan of paying Limas more than $11,000 in 2008 in exchange for favorable decisions. Marchan's defense argued he was just loaning money to a friend.
At trial, Limas had testified that the money Marchan gave him was to head off an opposing lawyer's attempt to sanction Marchan for missing a court date and to land an appointment as a guardian ad litem. Guardians ad litem represent the interests of people, often children, in cases and Limas described the work during Marchan's trial as "quick, easy money."
Marchan was a respected civil litigator in Brownsville. He had attended Rice University and graduated from Stanford's law school.
Noting that Marchan would not be able to practice law following his punishment, defense attorney Adela Kowalski Garza argued for the low end of the possible sentence. "This has already destroyed Mr. Marchan enough," Garza said.
After the sentence, Marchan declined comment other than to allude to an appeal that would cover material not discussed in his trial.
Prosecutors had called five witnesses in effort to show the incident with Limas was not an isolated ethical lapse. Lawyer Mikal Watts testified that Marchan had worked for his firm for about eight years before being fired. He explained instances where Marchan was holding back about $250,000 that was supposed to be distributed to clients and lienholders. Marchan also ran up personal expenses on his firm credit card, he said.
Defense witnesses focused on Marchan's relationship with his 19-year-old autistic son.
Marchan's former mother-in-law, Sarah Graham, testified that Marchan's son is becoming more aggressive. He's never left alone. Marchan bathes him, shaves him and sometimes sleeps with him. She said her daughter, Marchan's ex-wife, could not handle him alone.
She said she couldn't imagine her grandson living without his father. "It would be devastating."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wynne reminded Graham that Marchan had brought a 19-year-old Russian bride into the house when she would have been just a couple years older than her grandson. He also cited at least eight reports of physical abuse made by Marchan's ex-wife against Marchan.
Hanen, over prosecutors' objection, allowed Marchan to remain free on bond and show up on his own to prison.
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