CORPUS CHRISTI — A former associate of Marc G. Rosenthal took the stand Thursday, describing his former boss as a self-absorbed, arrogant man who boasted of having a judge in his pocket and threatened to take another out of office.
“‘I own that judge,’” attorney J.K. Ivey said Rosenthal told him of then-state District Judge Abel C. Limas.
Ivey was an associate of Rosenthal’s law firm from 2008 through 2009, when Rosenthal fired him.
Ivey also testified that Rosenthal became extremely upset when a judge in Laredo made rulings against one of his cases. He said Rosenthal told an intermediary to tell the judge that “his days on the bench are numbered” and that Rosenthal would get an opponent to run against the judge.
Defense attorney Paul G. Kratzig, however, indicated through cross-examination that Ivey could have left the firm and complained to someone if he had been so concerned about Rosenthal and his actions, but Ivey did not do so.
“I could have. I did not,” Ivey testified.
Kratzig also suggested that Ivey was a disgruntled former employee who felt Rosenthal owed him money and that his work had suffered due to health issues, personal problems and perhaps too much alcohol consumption.
“Weren’t you hitting the bottle a little heavy?” Kratzig asked Ivey. Ivey said he drank a bit, but that his work had not been affected.
Ivey’s testimony came in the ongoing trial of Rosenthal in federal court in Corpus Christi. He is charged with 13 counts of corruption-related offenses, including bribing Limas directly and through former state Rep. Jim Solis in return for favorable court rulings. Solis, who was of-counsel to Rosenthal’s firm, worked on personal injury cases with Rosenthal. Limas has been convicted of racketeering. Solis was convicted of aiding and abetting extortion.
The defense maintains that Rosenthal was not aware of what Solis and Limas, who was a sitting judge at the time, were doing.
In his testimony, Ivey said, “The firm is Marc Rosenthal,” adding that Rosenthal made decisions on all the cases.
Ivey testified that, “there is no doubt in my mind that Marc was in charge.”
He said that Rosenthal and Solis were “extremely close” and recounted that Rosenthal purchased two units of a communication system with a recording device and screen for Rosenthal and Solis.
Ivey testified that Rosenthal told Solis that, “‘I just want to be able to see your face when I’m telling you what to do.’”
“Marc was boss and Jim and I just did what he told us to do,” Ivey said.
Ivey testified that Rosenthal assigned the helicopter crash-case in early 2008 to him. Ivey said he was charged with the preparation and development of the case, while Rosenthal and Solis dealt with the court-related aspects of it.
Ivey said that Rosenthal was concerned because Limas had lost his re-election bid in 2008 and he wanted the helicopter case to go to trial before Limas left the bench. Ivey testified that Solis and Rosenthal got a trial setting from Limas, which was a concern because the case could not be developed in such a short time.
After expressing his concern to Rosenthal, Ivey said that Rosenthal basically told him to shut up.
When it became clear that the case could not go to trial before Limas left the bench, Ivey said Rosenthal told him not to worry because the case would be transferred to a “friendly judge” and that he would take care of that.
Ivey testified that Limas transferred the case to then 357th Judge Leonel Alejandro and that when defense attorneys motioned to return the case to the 404th District Court, when Limas already was of-counsel to Rosenthal’s firm, Rosenthal told Ivey that he had it on good authority that the case would not be transferred back.
Ivey testified that what he gathered from this is that Limas had spoken to Alejandro.
Ivey said that defense attorney Charlie Smith had been stunned when the case was not transferred back to the 404th District Court.
“Welcome to the Valley,” Ivey testified that he told Smith.