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El Paso Attorneys' Contempt Trial Continues Thursday

Day Four of Caballero/Leeds Criminal Trial

Attorneys on Trial

EL PASO, Texas - The criminal contempt hearings of El Paso attorneys Theresa Caballero and Stuart Leeds continues at 8:30 a.m., at the El Paso County Courthouse.

The hearings recessed after a steady stream of witnesses called by the defendants, Wednesday.

Witnesses who took the stand Wednesday were from a mixed array of backgrounds.

They included attorneys, a Fort Bliss soldier, a man accused of possessing child pornography and a tenant who lives in Leeds' garage apartment.

They were mostly character witnesses who had no independent knowledge of the Judge Regina Arditti bribery trial, where Caballero and Leeds were successful in securing an acquittal for Arditti.

Nearly all of the witnesses were asked by Caballero to describe the pair of attorneys. The word most used was "zealous."

Defense witnesses testified Wednesday that El Paso needs attorneys like Caballero and Leeds, and that without them there would be no one to challenge the system.

Some of the witnesses called were individuals from cases Caballero and Leeds had defended in the past. Multiple defendants testified their legal fees were pro-bono.

Hector Torres, a man accused of possessing child pornography, retold the story of the day Caballero and Leeds came to his jail cell telling him they would take his case.

"I would describe them as effective," Torres said. "I never thought I'd end up with the two best lawyers in town."

Court reporter Robert Thomas was working during the Arditti trial in 2011. He testified that visiting judge Steve Smith had been against the defense throughout the trial.

Thomas said he did not see the defendants misbehavior during the course of the trial.

"A lot of people like you a lot," Thomas said.

A prospective juror from the Arditti trial testified to the contrary on Monday.

Retired teacher Robin Zubek said the attorneys were threatening and disrespectful.

"I thought they showed total disrespect for everyone in the courtroom except for themselves and their client," Zubek said.

After the verdict was read, Smith said Caballero and Leed's behavior was the worst he had seen in his entire career.

Smith claimed Caballero and Leeds were disrespectful to the court during the Arditti trial, and actively turned the jury against the court.

At one point Caballero displayed a projection of a two-headed hydra monster, with one of the heads being the district attorney and the other judge Smith.

Caballero was cited with 11 criminal contempt-of-court charges and Leeds with seven. Each count carries up to six months in jail and fines.

It has been stated that Caballero made disparaging comments against judge Smith and El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza during the course of the Arditti trial.

Caballero and Leeds continue to refer to Judge Smith as a "liar" and a "racist."

Caballero used Wednesday's case to enter into the record criticisms of District Attorney Esparza during her direct examination of witness Ben Mendoza.

Mendoza was represented by Caballero and Leeds after being sued by Mayor John Cook surrounding his involvement in a recall petition.

Theresa Caballero: Is Mr. Esparza known for political prosecutions?
Ben Mendoza: If you're not one of his friends you run the risk of being indicted.
TC: Is Mr. Esparza known to be a mean man?
Prosecutor Garza: Objection, relevancy.
TC: I'm trying to paint a picture that the D.A. is a very viscous, vindictive, mean person.
Judge: Overruled.
TC: Is he vindictive?
BM: Yes, especially if you're not his friend. You are the only two attorneys in this county who will stand up to the district attorney.

District Attorney Esparza has said he will not to address the proceedings of the Caballero-Leeds case.

Harsh criticism of El Paso media was also a part of the testimony Wednesday.

Theresa Caballero: The El Paso Times covered the recall election, were they slanted?
Ben Mendonza: Yes.
TC: Were they biased?
BM: Yes.
TC: What reporter in particular?
BM: Marty Schladen.
TC: Is his reporting hateful?
BM: It's that and then some. They're on a vindictive mission.

At one point Caballero identified Schladen who was in the courtroom, and drew an affirmative response that Schladen is a "dishonest reporter."

Schladen appeared to be unfazed.

In an emotional twist, Caballero started crying during the direct examination of a witness familiar with Leeds' family.

Leeds objected to Caballero bringing up his family.

The exchange occurred when Martha Esquival, a former courthouse employee, was testifying.

Esquival, who is familiar with the Leeds family, said Leeds takes care of his 17-year-old autistic niece and is her sole provider.

When Caballero brought the niece up, Leeds objected saying "Objection. Leave my family out of this."

Caballero asked the judge to overrule the objection, and then, Caballero turned to Leeds with tears in her eyes, and said, "Stuart, I know what I'm doing."
Caballero then began to cry.

She turned her back to Esquival and asked her "If Stuart goes to jail, what happens to Libby? There will be no one to care for her right?"

"Yeah," Esquival said.

The prosecution requested a five-minute break that was granted.

Visiting prosecutor Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza finished calling witnesses on Tuesday.

A total of 82 witnesses were sworn in on Monday. Whether they will all be called to testify was not answered.

Stuart Leeds said he expected defense witnesses would continue to testify for the length of the day on Thursday.
 


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