Bribing the Judge Didn't Pay

By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 20, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sometimes, a routine traffic stop turns into something more serious. One day in Puerto Rico, it led to the end of a judicial career and 10 years to think about it.

Judge Manuel Acevedo-Hernandez wasn't even driving when police pulled over the car. His friend was driving.

The problem was the officers recognized his friend from a negligent homicide case. The judge had just dismissed it.

The $100,000 Question

In United States v. Acevedo Lopez, the story began when Angel Roman-Badillo first met with the judge to talk about the case. The defendant, Lutgardo Acevedo-Lopez, had been charged with aggravated negligent homicide and other crimes after he allegedly killed another driver in an auto accident.

Badillo, who went by the name "Lito," wanted to know what the judge could do for Lopez. The judge said it was so delicate it "could not be worked on, not even for $100,000."

Over the next several months, Lito took care of Hernandez in various ways. One day, Lito drove Hernandez to meet an acquaintance who could help the judge secure an appointment to the appeals court.

In the meantime, Hernandez acquitted Lopez of all charges. But that traffic stop changed everything.

Bribing a Judge

The police opened an investigation, resulting in a ten-year sentence for the judge. It also led to new charges against Lopez.

He plead guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. Section 371 and 18 U.S.C. Section 666 for bribing the judge. Appealing his sentence, however, he objected that prosecutors brought in evidence of prior criminal activity.

Prosecutors procured testimony, documents and videos that showed Lopez involved in death threats, beatings, and kidnapping. Affirming, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals said he deserved a longer sentence.

He got nine years.

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