Judge's trial focuses on defendant's accuser

December 16, 2009 3:33:54 PM PST
Grilled on the stand, there were tough questions for a woman who says a Harris County judge said he'd dismiss her case in exchange for a romantic relationship. She claims a judge offered to throw out her DWI case in exchange for sex. But on Wednesday, the woman at the center of a case against the judge found herself in the hot seat.

For the second day in a row, the woman at the center of the official oppression trial against Judge Donald Jackson took the stand. Ariana Venegas was grilled by defense attorneys. Venegas' attorney says that's no surprise.

"This is the part of the trial where the defense will try to tear apart her testimony," said Venegas' attorney, Rob Todd. "All she has to do is tell the truth."

Prosecutors contend that after Venegas was arrested for DWI, Judge Jackson offered to help her with her case in exchange for sexual favors. In an effort to discredit Venegas, the defense played the video tape of Venegas performing a field sobriety test hours after her initial arrest. Then they repeatedly asked her if she was using a sexy voice to speak to the officers just to try and get out of the DWI.

"I'm not going to attack her outside or inside the courtroom, but I think the jury can draw its own conclusions as to whether or not she's worthy of belief under oath," said Dan Cogdell, Judge Jackson's attorney.

Venegas, however, remained calm on the stand, insisting any inconsistencies she had in her testimony were simply a case of nerves and the fact that she's never been arrested before.

"She's scared to death," Todd explained. "This is so hard for her to go through it. I think she did very well."

While defense attorneys are trying to prove that Judge Jackson did not solicit Venegas for sexual favors, they do admit that the judge met Venegas for dinner. It's a move they say Jackson should never have done.

"He had a poor choice. It was a bad idea," Cogdell said. "It was dumber than a bucket of hair for him to meet with her. It was one of the dumbest things he's ever done."

Defense attorneys are quick to point out that just because their client, Judge Jackson, acted stupid, it doesn't mean he acted unlawfully.

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


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