Months after a jury convicted him of 11 fraud-related counts for steering clients to invest in a Ponzi scheme, former lawyer and Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti decided to put his federal criminal case behind him by pleading guilty to a pending bribery conspiracy charge.
Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat, was found guilty of the fraud charges last February and was later sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution by Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra. After the conviction, Uresti resigned his law license in lieu of discipline from the State Bar of Texas.
Uresti maintained his innocence after the conviction and vowed to appeal but faced an upcoming trial for an unrelated bribery charge. He could have been sentenced to an additional five years in prison if a jury found him guilty of the charge—facilitating bribes to a former Reeves County judge in exchange for official actions regarding a medical services contract.
Mikal Watts, a partner in San Antonio’s Watts Guerra who represents Uresti in the bribery case, said his client decided to plead guilty to avoid spending additional years in prison.
“It was a defensible case that I advised him he would win. However, any case comes with risks. If he lost, he was risking stacked sentences in addition to the 12 years he’s already got,” Watts said. “And by pleading, prosecutors recommended concurrent sentences. So what he really gave up was his right to appeal the first trial ,and given the poor odds of reversal at the Fifth Circuit on any criminal case, eliminating the risk of stacked sentences in exchange for giving up his appeal of the first trial made eminent sense.’’
Watts, a plaintiffs attorney who successfully defended himself pro se against federal allegations that he intentionally submitted phony names to recover from the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said the plea deal also will bring Uresti home to San Antonio sooner.
“Carlos Uresti is a good man. I think he made countless contributions to the Bexar County community and the State of Texas, first as a state representative and then as a senator,” Watts said. “My only goal is to get him back into that community as soon as possible so that he can continue his life’s work of contributing to the folks in this community who need his help.’’