Campagnoli trial is set to collapse
If juror on leave does not return, process will have to restart
The impeachment trial against suspended prosecutor José María Campagnoli is likely to collapse on Friday, when a hearing is scheduled to take place. If juror María Cristina Martínez Córdoba does not cancel her medical leave earlier than expected, a new trial will have to be carried out before October, when the charges against the prosecutor expire.
The six remaining members of the court headed by prosecutor Daniel Adler — except for Martínez Córdoba, who is suffering from high blood pressure and stress, reportedly due to several threats because of her involvement in the politically-charge trial — yesterday met at the Attorney-General headquarters located on de Mayo avenue to discuss how the proceeding was going to move forward.
After more than five hours of heated discussions, the members of the court left the office after calling off the hearing that had been scheduled for 4pm. At that time, the only person who was still outside the courtroom was Campagnoli and his defence lawyer, former Radical lawmaker Ricardo Gil Lavedra.
“We don’t know much,” Gil Lavedra said while walking. “All we can do is speculate but we will not know until the next hearing takes place,” he told the Herald, while Campagnoli left with a group of young men who used to work with him at the prosecutor’s unit in the Saavedra neighbourhood.
Martínez Córdoba’s alternate, Leonardo Miño, has been summoned for Friday but everyone fully expects that, unless Martínez Córdoba comes back, the court will quickly announce that the impeachment trial is null and void.
So close, so far
The impeachment trial would be nullified at a time when there are just two hearings pending. The first would be to listen to the prosecutors who accuse Campagnoli of malfeasance and interference with a colleague’s investigation and to listen to the closing arguments of Campagnoli’s defence lawyers.
Given the trial is so far along and that there are no witnesses left to declare in court, both sides appear to agree that Miño could not take Martínez Córdoba’s place to issue a ruling when he did not hear those who delivered their testimonies.
Miño, like Martínez Córdoba, is a public defender but he is also a member of the Magistrates Association, the organization that last year opposed the judicial reform propelled by the Kirchnerite administration. The Magistrates Association also issued a press release in December to defend Campagnoli, saying that judicial independence was at risk and backing Campagnoli’s version of events.
The suspended prosecutor says that the impeachment he is facing is a reprisal for daring to investigate Kirchnerite businessman Lázaro Báez, whereas Attorney-General Alejandra Gils Carbó considered that Campagnoli changed the object of an investigation in order to take part in that probe, which was already being analyzed by federal prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán.
If the trial flounders — as everything seems to indicate now — a new tribunal will have to be conformed by the majority of the members who make up the current tribunal and with Miño as a representative of public defenders.
The sides will have the opportunity to hand in evidence against and in favour of Campagnoli and everything will start over again, including the witness summons. For now, no one involved in the trial believes Martínez Córdoba will make a comeback.
“We’ll have to wait but we aren’t holding out much hope,” prosecutor Adolfo Villate yesterday told the Herald.
Villate as well as Martínez Córdoba have received several threats for their participation in the trial.
Last week, the prosecutor’s wife received a phone call asking her if her husband was not afraid of “being shot dead for trying to judge a man like Campagnoli.” Yesterday’s morning, Villate found graffiti spray-painted at the entrance of his house: “We all support Campagnoli” and “piece of shit.”
In the afternoon, the members of the impeachment tribunal issued a press release expressing their concern over the repeated threats against the members of the court and the prosecutors who accuse Campagnoli.
Days after the impeachment turned into a TV show with the appearance of Clarín media group journalist Jorge Lanata, the tribunal officially requested that the press report with “responsibility and objectivity.” But everything indicates that the atmosphere will remain tense if a new trial must be carried out.