Tribunal accepts Moncada Luna plea bargain


Suspended Supreme Court Justice Alejandro Moncada Luna appeared today at a hearing convened by the National Assembly tribunal formed to adjudicate his case in which he faces four charges related to allegations of corruption.

The hearing is focused on a plea bargain that was reached between the judge and Prosecutor Pedro Miguel Gonzalez Feb. 23 which called for a 5-year prison sentence. Yesterday, Moncada Luna's lawyer, Ramiro Jarvis, filed a notice that Moncada Luna wanted to reject the deal. He also presented a medical certificate stating that the suspended judge was not healthy enough to attend a hearing.

A medical review of the defendant at Santo Tomas Hospital, however, did not find any health problems.

At today's hearing, Moncada Luna agreed to the plea bargain and said he signed it voluntarily without coercion. The three judges of the tribunal also endorsed the agreement, which also calls for the suspended judge to forfeit two apartments in Coco del Mar valued at $1.7 million. 

Moncada Luna pleaded guilty to unjustified enrichment and fraud. Gonzalez said that the five-year sentence is significantly less than the total sentence Moncada Luna faced if he had been convicted on all counts. He said the tribunal can't lengthen the term, but they can reduce it.

"The court has the power to do so, in the case of a person who is linked to a punishable offense for the first time," he said.

The judges could also allow him to serve the sentence under house arrest.

Gonzalez also said that a report of the Comptrollerl has established that the suspended judge and his wife spent more than $2 million more than they earned while he was in office, which was the basis for the charges.

His wife, María del Pilar, was receiving a monthly salary of $4,000 (not counting the deductions) as director of Planning and Finance of the Ministry of the Presidency in the government of Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), who appointed Moncada Luna to the court. As a judge, he earned $10,000.

Also at the hearing are José María Castillo, Edwin Guardia and Manuel Cedeño, who are lawyers for holding companies that have bank accounts linked to the suspended judge. The 14 accounts contain $4.7 million. According to González, the suspended judge was paid money from these accounts in exchange for contracts he issued while president of the court from 2012 to 2013.



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