Judge's official oppression trial underway

December 14, 2009 3:09:23 PM PST
Opening arguments were given Monday in the trial of a judge accused of offering to help get a woman's case dismissed in exchange for a sexual relationship. Harris County Judge Donald Jackson paid close attention to those opening statements in court on Monday. He's accused of asking Ariana Venegas, 27, for a relationship in exchange for a better lawyer to get her case dismissed.

The bartender was arrested on a DWI charge February 1. On February 19, the prosecution says she was in court. That's when prosecutors say the judge asked for her cell phone number, called her later and met her at a coffee shop near FM 1960. From there, he took her to a Cajun restaurant where prosecutors say he made his request.

The defense then brought Vanegas' character and credibility into question, saying she tried to sweet talk the arresting officers, among others, before they say she asked the judge for special favors.

Defense attorneys aren't disputing that Judge Jackson asked Vanegas to get in his truck and asked her to dinner. But they say he was battling prostate cancer and was emotionally vulnerable.

Judge Jackson has been suspended with pay and Vanegas is expected to take the stand.

If convicted, Judge Jackson faces up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.


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