Saturday, October 28, 2006

Puerto Rican Bush Crony Loses Bid to Delay Starting Fraud Trial

I was catching up on my political reading the other night, and a recent article from In These Times by Conor Kenny about a few of President Bush's bagmen and how they've further corrupted American politics and democracy fascinated me, in part because I'm keeping a list of many of the sleazy GOP politicians and advisors who are doing their part to deliver a GOP defeat at the polls in little more than a week from now.

One person featured in the article, Rene Vazquez Botet, deserves some additional attention and I'm going to do my part to give it to him.

From In These Times:

Vazquez is a former official in Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party (NPP), whose officials are often allied with the Republican Party. After he served as Bush’s Puerto Rico presidential campaign finance chair in 2000, Bush appointed Vazquez to a Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

In 2004, a federal grand jury indicted Vazquez on charges of conspiracy, extortion and fraud. Vazquez allegedly colluded [...] to demand more than $2 million in kickbacks from construction firms in exchange for using their clout to help secure contracts worth $300 million. The grand jury says that Vazquez received over $300,000 from contractors from 1996 to 1999, [...] the same time Vazquez was likely gearing up his fundraising for Bush’s 2000 campaign. party.

Vazquez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 100 years in prison and $2 million in fines if convicted.

Hmmm, so what's happening with him being brought to trial, you ask? Well, Vazquez and his legal team have not faced a jury yet, in part because they recently filed a motion to have the presiding judge recused. Actually, they've filed two such recusal motions, the most recent of which was dismissed, as was the first. Some legal scholars view such motions as delaying tactics.

From the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruling in late September:

Petitioner René Vázquez-Botet, who is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy, fraud, and extortion, seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the recusal of the presiding district court judge. Because the scheduled start of trial was imminent, this court expedited the hearing on this petition. We then issued a judgment on September 14, 2006 (the day after oral argument), denying the mandamus petition and indicating that an opinion would follow. This is that opinion. In it, we set forth our reasons for withholding relief from petitioner. [...]

Given these circumstances, given the demanding mandamus requirements, and given petitioner’s right “to raise [his] claim of error, if [he] so chooses, in an end-of-case appeal,” In re Cargill, Inc., 66 F.3d at 1264 (footnote omitted), we find the concerns raised here to be insufficient to justify further delay. It is for these reasons that we have denied the petition.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but my interpretation of this ruling is that Vazquez's case is moving closer toward trial, something I am sure the Bush administration is not pleased with. This case, along with dozens of others involving corrupt GOP politicians and their operatives, guarantees that no matter what happens on November 7, GOP sleaze will still be in the news and of concern to political bloggers.

And while the Vazquez mess has not been in the English-language press of late, it sure has been in the news down in Puerto Rico. Click here and also here and here too for a few current samples of articles about his troubles in the Spanish-language press.


Anonymous said...

Another Bush crony in the dock? Say it isn't so!

Madridkid said...

A jury found Rene Vazquez Botet, 51, guilty Friday Nov. 3, 2006 of seven of eight counts of conspiracy and money laundering and other related federal charges. He, along with former New Progressive Party Secretary General Marcos Morell, were indicted for a kickback-for-contract conspiracy in which they received a total of $2.4 million from contractors in public works project in Puerto Rico when their party was in power in the mid 1990s. Morell was also convicted. The case was prosecuted by the US Justice Department's Public Integrity Division from Washington. They face between seven to 10 years each when they are sentenced next January. The judge trying the case ordered both of them under 24-hour arrest. Vazquez Botet was a Republican committeeman in PR, and had tried to take over the local party chairmanship just months before he was indicted. Wonder if Bush has kicked him off his education consulting panel by now.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much, madridkid, for informing me of the conviction. Of course, the US media is a asleep on this case. Let's get rid of the GOP and the lapdog press, okay?