JUNE 14, 2007
A federal investigation into widespread public corruption in a Texas county has implicated numerous elected officials and led to the bribery conviction of a senior judge’s chief of staff as well as charges of manipulating the judicial system.
El Paso County operations have recently been shaken up by federal searches of courthouses, homes of elected officials, prominent business leaders and other county agencies believed to be involved in the corruption scandal.
Although only one official, county chief of staff John Travis Ketner, has been convicted so far, prosecutors assure more will fall. Ketner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and bribery for orchestrating a ring to defraud El Paso County by fraudulently securing vendor contracts.
Also a top aide to an El Paso County judge (Anthony Cobos) under investigation, Ketner is charged with illegally manipulating the county district courts by assigning specific judges to particular cases. He did it by exploiting a computer system in the El Paso District Clerk’s office.
One example involves a still unnamed female county elected official who Ketner helped by illegally manipulating the way a state court and judge got selected to hear her lawsuit. So far 17 individuals have been named as co-conspirators in the corruption fiasco, including various county commissioners.
The implicated judge (Anthony Cobos) has refused calls for his resignation, maintains his innocence and blames “adversaries” for launching the FBI investigation. In fact, the judge said that if he had “rubber stamped” everything that the community’s rich and powerful wanted, the accusations never would have happened.
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