Cross-examination of FBI agent gets heated during Villalobos trial

Armando Villalobos

An FBI agent spent most of the day on the stand during the Armando Villalobos trial.

He testified about years worth of tracking cash for favors that Villalobos allegedly received.

Mark Gripka has been investigating this cash for favors scheme since 2006.

His testimony focused on a money trail he tracked on questionable transactions by Villalobos. Prosecutors showed dozens of records of meeting logs in Villalobos' books, records of money orders and bank deposit slips.

Gripka says they went back to see if things checked out after interviews with key witnesses including former State District Judge Abel Limas, attorney Oscar de la Fuente and former attorney Joe Valle.

The witnesses admitted to giving or taking money from Villalobos in return for favorable rulings.

Gripka testified that he reviewed Villalobos calendar and then compared it to bank transactions.

He said following meetings with the witnesses who testified, there were always cash transactions made the same day or within a few days of meeting with Villalobos.

The transactions were mostly for $500 or less.

Gripka used a blackboard to give the jury a visual on the pattern of the alleged illegal cash for court favors scheme.

He highlighted the pattern by writing out the dates of the meetings and transactions on a blackboard.

Cross examination of FBI agent

Things got heated between FBI agent Gripka and Defense Attorney Joel Androphy when he challenged the investigation findings.

Gripka has been one of the lead investigators in the cash for favors scheme for nearly seven years.

Androphy challenged the chart Gripka made showing correlations between dates of meetings and dates where bank or money order transactions were made.

Androphy said no witness have testified about the specific dates Gripka is highlighting.

He tried convincing jurors that some of those questionable transactions were actually payments from Villalobos' mom for a credit card account they share.

Gripka was visibly upset on the stand and both he and Androphy raised their voices at each other.

Gripka said that Defense Attorney Androphy is mischaracterizing the investigation.

Androphy nearly scolded Gripka suggesting to listen and answer the questions asked.

At one point, the heated examination got so bad that the judge excused the jury where he then told FBI agent Gripka that Androphy had the right to make his point during cross-examination and if Gripka did not cooperate, the judge would have his testimony struck.

Gripka was the last witness for federal prosecutors.

The defense called up their first witness attorney Rick Canales and they also plan to call attorney Noe Garza.

Villalobos himself is expected to take the stand.