The intermediate hearing on Monday against Rosario Robles is key, because in it both the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and the defendant’s lawyers must mutually reveal the evidence with which they intend to go to trial, and it will be the judge who defines which ones stay and which ones are thrown away. It is also about the last chance that the former head of Sedesol and Sedatu will have to negotiate an alternative exit to the trial, according to defense sources.
What is expected is that Rosario Robles, imprisoned in a preventive manner for more than a year for her probable responsibility in omissions that would have facilitated millionaire deviations under the scheme of “The master scam”, you will not plead guilty or report other crimes in exchange for the FGR dropping the charges or giving you a reduced sentence, but he will ask the judge for more time to prepare his defense and even for the trial to be suspended.
This in a hearing scheduled for today at 10 in the morning before Judge Ganter Villar Ceballos, in room 1 of the Federal Justice Center of the South Preventive Prison, in Mexico City.
Sources with knowledge of the case indicated to Political Animal that, once the session has started, the attorneys for the former federal official will seek to request two things from the federal judge. On the one hand, that it analyzes the definitive suspension of the eventual trial, since in its perspective the facts that the Prosecutor’s Office imputes do not correspond to a crime but to an administrative matter.
And on the other, that the intermediate hearing be postponed with the argument that they still do not have the complete results of two expert opinions that are key in their strategy: one in accounting matters, and the other in public administration.
Even though the FGR prosecutors could present an argument against this last request, it would be expected that the judge will grant at least the postponement, since the law establishes that the right to an adequate defense must be privileged. This as long as the request is justified correctly.
If the above occurs, the hearing would be suspended at that time and would be rescheduled at another date. If the judge does not grant it, the hearing will continue as scheduled.
Regardless of when it is completed, the purpose of the mid-term hearing is to discuss and agree on what evidence will be kept by each of the parties. At the end, and if there is no type of suspension or protection, Judge Villar Ceballos would decree the so-called order to open an oral trial, which means leaving the case ready for trial before a new court that has not had contact with the process.
According to judicial sources, the eventual trial would be taking place at least two months after the end of the intermediate hearing, as long as there is no recourse that prevents its programming.
Regarding the possibility that Robles agrees to seek an alternative solution to his criminal process either through a criterion of opportunity (which will involve providing information to report a more serious crime), or through an abbreviated process (pleading guilty to obtain the minimum penalty), something that the FGR said is willing to negotiate, the legal team of the former official denied conclusively that it is an option they are considering.
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Public hearing … behind closed doors
Although on paper the intermediate hearing of Rosario Robles is public, like all those of the accusatory criminal system, in reality it will be held behind closed doors without allowing the public or journalists to enter. This is due to the health contingency measures that have restricted access to the rooms.
These restrictions on the right to publicity are based on an agreement issued by the Federal Judicial Council, and whose validity extends until next October 30.
The Judiciary has not enabled any option for the public to follow these types of hearings remotely. Only in the case of the initial hearings related to the criminal process against the former director of Pemex, Emilio Lozoya, was a follow-up mechanism designed through messages on WhatsApp.
As for the parties who intervene directly in the process (judge, prosecution, victims and defense), they have the possibility of appearing through videoconference or physically appearing in the courtroom.
In August Rosario Robles sent a formal request to the administrative judge of the Justice Center in the South Prison to allow her to appear in person, at the intermediate hearing. The judge accepted the request, instructing that his transfer from the Santa Martha women’s prison (where he is imprisoned) be carried out according to the corresponding sanitary protocols.
Many witnesses, few expert opinions
Both the FGR and the defense have prepared their case relying mainly on testimonies from federal and former federal officials, and to a lesser extent on expert opinions or other types of technical evidence.
The foregoing is due, in part, to the fact that Robles is not accused of a highly complex crime such as money laundering or embezzlement, but simply not having done anything to prevent the signing of agreements that facilitated the possible diversion of more than five billion of pesos of Sedesol and Sedatu, in the past administration. Despite this, the prosecutors ask against him for a sentence of up to 21 years in prison and that, in addition, he repair the damage for the millionaire amount allegedly deviated.
How Political Animal advancement on this note, the case of the FGR is supported by 288 tests of which only one is an accounting expert’s report and the rest correspond to statements of former officials of the dependencies where Robles worked, and the personnel of the Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF ) who identified the anomalies.
Among the witnesses that prosecutors have offered, the former head of the ASF, Juan Manuel Portal, and the former director of Forensic audit Muna Dora Buchahin stand out. This was added to 18 former Sedesol and Sedatu officials, cited to say basically the same thing: that they did not receive instructions from Robles to stop the signing of agreements.
On the defense side, the lawyers have proposed a strategy based on 55 tests which aim to confirm that Robles did heed the observations of the ASF about the suspicious agreements with universities, and instructed his subordinates to resolve. The cancellation of these agreements, the litigants maintain, was not the faculty of the former employee, since at that time there was no confirmation that they were illegal.
Among the defense evidence are the two expert reports on accounting and public administration that continue to be perfected, and for which it will be requested that the hearing be deferred. Various documents have also been offered and, as witnesses, the lawyers have asked to summon the current head of the ASF, David Colmenares, and the former Major of Sedesol and Sedatu Emilio Zebadúa.