December 21, 2014
Round two of Campagnoli’s impeachment to open
The second stage in the impeachment proceeding against prosecutor José María Campagnoli is scheduled to start this week and, like the first one, it is likely to be predestined to flounder.
Campagnoli will have to attend a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, the first step before the formal start of the second impeachment trial. Then his defence lawyers, former Radical Party lawmaker Ricardo Gil Lavedra and Ignacio Irigaray, will again request the impeachment tribunal not to hold a new proceeding as the first one floundered due to the resignation of one of the jurors.
But the hearing can be called off before if, as sources told the Herald, prosecutors Adolfo Villate and Marcelo García Berro file a request to recuse the new member of the court. If this happens the proceeding against the Saavedra prosecutor — who is accused of malfeasance and interfering with a colleague’s investigation— will lead to to a dead end again.
Tomorrow the members of the jury are expected to deliver the grounds of their decision to reinstate Campagnoli as prosecutor but to open a second trial as the first one had to be called off after being more than 10 days in suspense following Public Defender María Cristina Martínez Córdoba’s medical leave and subsequent resignation.
Campagnoli’s defence lawyers are waiting to learn the reasons why the seven jurors decided to start a new trial to decide their next steps. On July 16, Irigaray and Gil Lavedra requested the impeachment court to return Campagnoli to his office in the City neighbourhood of Saavedra as the trial was not moving forward. A day later when the court met, four of the seven members of the tribunal agreed with them and reinstated the suspended prosecutor. But all of the members of the court agreed that Campagnoli had to be tried again before October, when the charges that he is facing expire.
Sources from the impeachment tribunal told the Herald that they were working on the grounds. Whereas Campagnoli’s lawyers insist that the prosecutor had been tried and that a verdict was not delivered due the court’s incompetence, the jurors understand that since a verdict has not been delivered yet, it cannot be argued that Campagnoli is going to be tried twice for the same alleged crime.
The impeachment tribunal is divided into two blocs. On the one hand, federal prosecutor Daniel Adler, Ernesto Kreplak (who represents the Executive in the court) and Rodolfo Ojea Quintana (the Senate’s representative) didn’t want to reinstate Campagnoli as prosecutor. On the other hand, there is a group made up by Adriana Donato and Javier Panero (Bar Associations’ representatives) and Juan Octavio Gauna (the Supreme Court’s delegate) who have kept a position in favour of Campagnoli. But it was Martínez Córdoba’s alternate, Public Defender Leonardo Miño, who put an end to the deadlock.
Miño’s appointment to the impeachment tribunal generated a heated controversy. The same day that Martínez Córdoba stepped down from the court, prosecutors Villate and García Berro recused her replacement, Miño. The prosecutors didn’t want Miño to take part in the tribunal as he is one of the top members of the Magistrates Association, that opposed Campagnoli’s suspension in December, saying that the decision negatively affected the independence of the judiciary. For Villate and García Berro, Miño had already expressed his opinion
The situation was worse when Public Defenders’ head Stella Maris Martínez appointed Nicolás Toselli to replace Martínez Córdoba. Disobeying his boss, Miño decided to stay in the court.
Villate and García Berro will probably file another challenge request before the impeachment tribunal tomorrow, sources told the Herald.
The court can dismiss the request, as its members did last month, or they can open a new debate, which will probably mean another period of stagnation.
Some speculate that if a new trial is carried out — as it is scheduled — a verdict in favour of Campagnoli can be issued, contradicting opposition politicians and media that said that the die was cast and that Campagnoli was going to be removed from the judiciary for daring to investigate Kirchnerite businessman Lázaro Báez.
Others only want to sit Campagnoli in the dock and to make a prompt decision. The first proceeding —that started in June and was called off a month later — was marked by threats and harassment. Prosecutors Villate and Adler were the main victims of that violence, which was rejected by all the parties involved. Though some say Martínez Córdoba took medical leave for suffering from stress due to several threats, others insist that she did not report any incident, explaining that she was in fact under pressure to vote against Campagnoli.
“We want to move forward with this case,” a member of the court told this newspaper.
If a new trial starts, the impeachment tribunal will have to decide if they summon the witnesses who have already appeared before them in June. The list includes judges, members of the Magistrates Council and Clarín media group star, journalist Jorge Lanata. The founder of daily Página/12 was one of the critics of the impeachment tribunal and two weeks ago said during his TV programme that he was willing to meet the jurors again. That will be showtime. Again.