A federal judge Monday in San Juan threw out 15 of the 24 campaign corruption charges facing outgoing Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila.
The decision was due to technical interpretations of the law as opposed to a lack of evidence in the federal government's argument, according to U.S. district attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez.
Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled that 13 counts relating to Acevedo Vila's 2004 gubernatorial campaign do not support wire and program fraud. Conversely, Rodriguez-Velez has maintained that the charges - the governor's drawing upon public campaign funds after surpassing spending limits imposed by Puerto Rican law - do support wire and program fraud.
"I agree with the defendants that the electoral law allows a candidate to draw on the Voluntary Fund even if he has exceeded the spending cap," Barbadoro wrote in his memorandum and order. "Accordingly, a scheme to conceal campaign spending in violation of the spending cap is a scheme to violate Puerto Rican law rather than a scheme to defraud Puerto Rico of its contributions to the Voluntary Fund. Because such a scheme cannot serve as the basis for wire fraud or program fraud prosecution, the charges are defective and must be dismissed."
Barbadoro rejected the 13 counts and also threw out two others relating to alleged federal tax evasion schemes involving taxable benefits the governor may have received from his campaign committee and donors. While Acevedo Vila will still stand trial on Feb. 9 for the remaining charges, he expressed his happiness regarding the judge's decision while attending a National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia.
"I am very satisfied with the decision of the judge and trusted in the work of the lawyers so that justice could be done ... I thank the aid and the support of thousands of Puerto Ricans that have supported me in this battle that continues and that today renews its forces," the governor said in a press release.
In addition, while the judge threw out the 13 charges entirely, the two Internal Revenue Service-related counts were dismissed without prejudice, allowing the government to find alternative charges.
"The two charges on the contributive law were rejected without damage, that is to say, by a technical term in the editing of the charges," Rodriguez-Velez said in a press release. "The federal district attorney's office is evaluating several alternatives and a decision will make on the matter soon."
On Nov. 4, Acevedo Vila, a member of the Popular Democratic Party, lost his re-election campaign to Puerto Rico's current resident commissioner, Luis Fortuño, a member of the New Progressive Party.