Attorney Marc Rosenthal gets 20 years in federal prison

Marc Rosenthal got 20 years in federal prison // File Photo

At attorney who once bragged that he "owned a judge" has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $12 million dollars in restitution.

Attorney Marc Rosenthal appeared for sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville on Tuesday afternoon.

Convicted for being one of the ringleaders of the Cameron County "cash for court favors" scandal, Rosenthal's sentencing hearing actually started on Monday.

But the hearing ended up spanning more than 16 hours over two days time.

After arguing about restitution and other motions, sentencing got underway just after 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Rosenthal qualified for between 27 to 34 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors asked for the maximum punishment saying that that community would suffer from the damage Rosenthal caused for years to come.

Rosenthal Speaks

But the judge heard emotional pleas from defense attorneys Paul Kratzig and Ernesto Gamez as well as Rosenthal himself.

Kratzig argued that Rosenthal should get a lower sentence because Limas admitted to being the leader of the scheme and only got six years in federal prison.

Rosenthal apologized for actions saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the problems I've caused...those I've hurt. I will make for it."

Rosenthal reminded the judge that he contributed to children's charities on both sides of border.

A former Mr. Texas bodybuilding champion, Rosenthal often arrived with gifts dressed up as a wrestler to entertain sick and needy children.

Rosenthal told Judge Hanen that he plans to work with charities once he gets out of prison.

"Once I'm released from prison, I'll make you proud," Rosenthal said.

Huddled together and sobbing, Rosenthal's family watched as Judge Hanen handed down the sentence.

Sentencing Details

Judge Hanen sentenced Rosenthal to 20 years in federal prison and to pay more than $12 million dollars worth of restitution to victims of the scheme.

Among those getting payments are Metro Aviation, former Cameron County District Yolanda De Leon, former distirct attorney candidate Peter Zaveletta, Freedom Communications, Union-Pacific Railroad and the Quality Carriers trucking company.

Action 4 News spoke with victim Peter Zavaletta about the case.

Zavaletta was named in a rigged defamation lawsuit but says the Rosenthal case helps to restore confidence in the Cameron County judicial system.

"Thanks to the U.S. Attorney's Office and thanks to the FBI, we are cleaning up the system," Zavaletta said. "We shouldn't throw out the system due to a few bad apples."

Defense attoneys asked Judge Hane to place Rosenthal at a federal prison in Bastrop or any facility near his family in Central Texas.

Out of the 12 suspects originally charged in the case, the only case that remains pending is that of former Cameron District Attorney Armando Villalobos.

Sentencing for Villalobos is set for January 21st but he is expected in court on December 16th to argue over the findings of a pre-sentencing report.

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