Court Roundup

Texas

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McKINNEY, Texas (AP) -- A North Texas jury found a state district judge guilty Tuesday of accepting a bribe that boosted her 2008 election bid in exchange for future favorable rulings in her court.

The six-man, six-woman Collin County jury found state District Judge Suzanne Wooten guilty of six bribery counts and one each of money laundering, record tampering and engaging in organized criminal activity. The verdict came after 12 hours of deliberation.

The penalty phase is scheduled to begin Monday, The Dallas Morning News reported. She could receive punishment ranging from probation to life imprisonment.

Prosecutors alleged the judge's campaign consultant took six payments totaling $150,000 from a couple locked in a bitter child custody battle with the husband's ex-wife.

Testifying in her own defense last week, the 43-year-old judge denied having any role in such a scheme.

Wooten was suspended with pay after her indictment last year.

Wooten defeated longtime Judge Charles Sandoval in the 2008 Republican primary and had no opposition in the November election. But she recused herself from hearing the child custody case in question because of a conflict of interest with one of the attorneys.

The Texas attorney general's office began helping the Collin County district attorney's office investigate the criminal charges in December 2008, before Wooten was sworn into office. A former Collin County district attorney later recused his office from the case, and the current top prosecutor in the county tried unsuccessfully to have the attorney's general office removed.

New Jersey

Mistrial declared in NJ lawyer's murder case

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- The federal murder trial of a New Jersey defense attorney ended in a hung jury last week.

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday after a jury in Newark couldn't reach a verdict in the case against Paul Bergrin. The panel had deliberated for six days.

Bergrin faced one count each of murder and conspiracy for allegedly ordering the killing of an informant in 2004 to prevent him from testifying against one of Bergrin's clients. The government claimed Bergrin was involved in the drug trade himself.

Bergrin represented himself and accused the government of getting witnesses to change their stories in exchange for lighter sentences.

Bergrin once represented rappers and other celebrities such as Queen Latifah. He faces racketeering and drug charges that will be the focus of a separate trial.

Georgia

Judge dismisses charges in mortgage fraud case

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- A judge has dismissed racketeering charges against two men who had been accused of being involved in what prosecutors described as an elaborate mortgage fraud scheme involving new home sales in a Clarke County subdivision.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports that Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lawton Stephens this month ruled the charges against Brian C. Dupree and Marc Canty should be dismissed.

The judge said in his ruling that prosecutors allowed too much time to pass -- from the time Dupree and others were arrested in April 2006 until they were indicted in March.

Dupree's lawyer, Edward Tolley, said that documents crucial for his client's defense had disappeared and witnesses could not be located.

Authorities say a third defendant indicted in March, Rashid Wilson, has not been located.

Published: Mon, Nov 28, 2011