Justice Medina's wife pleads not guilty

HOUSTON Francisca Medina entered the plea during her first court appearance since being indicted last month on charges of felony arson, felony criminal mischief and state jail felony criminal mischief. She was accompanied by her husband.

Her attorney, Dick DeGuerin, waived having a formal arraignment and entered the plea on her behalf during the brief court appearance in which she neither spoke nor stood before a judge. "My wife is innocent," David Medina told reporters later. She did not comment.

"I thank God for the team we have assembled," David Medina said of their high-profile lawyers. "I look forward to victory."

Francisca Medina is free on bonds totaling $42,000.

"It's ludicrous to think Francisca Medina had anything to do with burning her house," DeGuerin said after the court appearance.

Prosecutor Vic Wisner, who was not present in court, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Both David and Francisca Medina were originally indicted on charges related to the June 28 fire in the Houston suburb of Spring. The fire not only damaged their home, but two nearby houses as well, causing about $900,000 damage. She was charged with arson, while Medina, a member of the state's highest civil court, was charged with evidence tampering.

Then-Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal threw out the original indictments the next day, citing a lack of evidence.

Grand jurors took the unusual step of publicly complaining about the dismissal of charges, accusing Rosenthal of protecting Medina, also an elected Republican.. Several members of the first grand jury later filed a lawsuit asking they be allowed to discuss evidence in the case.

Rosenthal resigned earlier this year over an unrelated scandal. Francisca Medina was reindicted by another grand jury. Her husband was not.

The blaze was ruled as not being electrical or accidental and an accelerant was found in the rubble.

Before the fire, the Medinas had had financial problems, including an attempt by a mortgage company to foreclose on the home, valued at $309,000, because of missed payments.

But Terry W. Yates, David Medina's attorney, has repeatedly pointed out that the Medinas had let their homeowners insurance policy lapse, meaning losses from the fire weren't covered.

The criminal mischief charges against Francisca Medina are related to the damage suffered by the two other homes.

The state jail charge carries punishment of up to two years. The arson and felony criminal mischief charges each are punishable by up to life in prison.

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