September 3, 2014
Campagnoli juror resigns
María Cristina Martínez Córdoba resigns, making it virtually certain trial will fail
When the impeachment proceedings against suspended prosecutor José María Campagnoli began, many political leaders were certain that “the die is cast.” Now, with only two hearings pending, no one would dare predict how the whole thing will end.
The juror who was on medical leave, María Cristina Martínez Córdoba, stepped down from the impeachment tribunal, meaning it is only a question of time before the proceedings collapse entirely.
Yesterday morning, prosecutors Marcelo García Berro and Adolfo Villate — who accuse Campagnoli of malfeasance and interfering with a colleague’s investigation — filed a request before the impeachment tribunal, which is led by prosecutor Daniel Adler, to recuse jurors Martínez Córdoba and her alternate Leonardo Miño.
García Berro and Villate believe Martínez Córdoba was the person who put the whole proceeding at risk, not being brave enough to continue in her position in spite of the threats she suffered, hardly an uncommon situation in a tribunal that has seen several of its members threatened by both sides of the contentious proceeding.
Nicolás Toselli will reportedly take her place at the impeachment tribunal, sources from the Attorney-General’s office told the Herald.
Recusals and leaves of absence
Public Defender Martínez Córdoba took centre stage on June 24 when the hearing that was scheduled for that day had to be suspended due to her absence. She was reportedly suffering from stress and high blood pressure. She then extended her leave until July 12, which led to the decision on on Monday by the members of the tribunal to summon her alternate, Leonardo Miño.
The prosecutors decided to recuse Miño, claiming that his position on the executive board of the Magistrates Association makes him biased.The association, which last year opposed the judicial reform propelled by the Kirchnerite administration, issued a press release opposing Campagnoli’s suspension, noting that judicial independence was at risk.
Campagnoli insists that his suspension was a reprisal for daring to investigate Kirchnerite business leader Lázaro Báez. Magistrates Association head Luis María Cabral appeared as a witness in the trial and told the tribunal that all the members of the board agreed on the release.
“We think that the Magistrates Association has an opinion and so does Miño,” Villate told the Herald.
The tribunal that decides whether to remove prosecutors from their posts is made up by two members of bar associations, a representative from the Executive, one from the Supreme Court, another from the Senate, a prosecutor and a public defender.
Toselli, a 35-year-old who has been working at the Public Defenders’ office since 2010, is reportedly going to finish Martínez Córdoba’s term at the tribunal.
It did not take long after his appointment was leaked that doubts began to emerge about the last-minute eleventh-hour replacement.
“He cannot be incorporated to the tribunal to issue a ruling. We don’t know why Martínez Córdoba stepped down and why he was appointed,” said lawyer Ignacio Irigaray in conversations with the Herald.
At press time, the parties had not received a formal notification. The tribunal, which remained silent yesterday, must hold a meeting to decide whether it accepts Toselli’s appointment and to define what is going to happen with the trial.
The proceeding cannot be delayed for more than 10 days and tomorrow is the final day in the countdown. If the tribunal agrees to Toselli replacing Martínez Córdoba, the plaintiffs and defence lawyers will likely oppose the decision.
“It isn’t possible to change the judge at this late stage of the proceeding,” Irigaray highlighted.
One of the prosecutors agreed that it would be complicated to change a juror at this point.
“The juror has to know the evidence and he did not take part in any of the hearings,” Villate explained to this newspaper.
If the trial flounders — as all signs seem to indicate at this point — a new trial will have to be held before October, when charges against Campagnoli expire. The suspended prosecutor’s lawyers believe it is high time to make a decision and they requested the tribunal to put an end to his suspension.