EL PASO -

The guilty pleas of public corruption defendant Adrian Pena have been overturned on appeal.

Pena pleaded guilty in 2010 to paying bribes to help secure construction contracts with El Paso County.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that Judge Frank Montalvo improperly took part in plea negotiations after Pena's attorney, Tom Stanton, attempted to withdraw from the case due to a conflict of interest.

The appellate court ordered the case to be sent back to a court other than Montalvo's.