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Ethics charges dismissed against former Puerto Rico House speaker

By on February 9, 2018

SAN JUAN – Superior Court Judge Enrique Silva Avilés dismissed four of nine charges against Jaime Perelló, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives’ former speaker.

“By means of the present resolution and order, a request for dismissal is declared on four of the nine accusations filed against the defendant,” the ruling reads. “The remaining five accusations will be subject to a preliminary hearing at the appropriate time.”

Specifically, the judge ruled that the accused does not respond to violation of Article 4.2 (b) of the Government Ethics Law since the article does not govern the conduct of a member of the legislative branch, and the accused cannot answer criminally for not having included a political donation in the financial report before the Office of Government Ethics (OEG).

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This, to the extent that the Government Ethics Law unequivocally states that this type of donation is not included in the report, and the District Attorney’s Office acknowledged it did not have proof that as a matter of law it could “convert” the political donation into personal income, and thus open the door to consider it was included as income in the report before the OEG.

“It is our understanding—even under the federal contributions regulations discussed, and which we consider extremely persuasive because it directly addresses the conversion of a political donation to the candidate’s personal income—that the Court remains irremediably obliged to dismiss the three complaints under discussion. This is because, even taking as true all the facts the State has exposed, such facts are insufficient for a Court to conclude there was a ‘conversion’ of the political donation to income,” the superior judge continued.

“Before the acknowledgment of the State that has no proof of the use that the accused or any person has given to that money, the State may not establish at the time the essential requirement that the use was not for the benefit of the campaign of the accused, but as a matter of fact, [was] a personal use by this [individual]. In the absence of the crucial test of the personal, nonelectoral use [by] the accused, the result regarding these three complaints cannot be other than dismissal,” the ruling reads.

“Based on the foregoing, the four complaints subject to the Motion for Dismissal that impute violations of Article 4.2 (b) of the LEG [Spanish acronym for Government Ethics Law], and Articles 269, 212 and 217 of the Criminal Code are ordered dismissed,” reads the document.

The District Attorney’s, represented by two Independent Special Prosecutors, presented nine complaints against Perelló Borrás for events that occurred when he was a member of the House of Representatives.

The alleged actions go back to 2012, when the accused was a candidate for re-election as a member of the chamber, and reach until 2013, when he had become speaker.

Three of the charges are for violations of the Penal Code for omitting in a 2012 financial report, presented before the Office of Government Ethics in August 2013, an alleged campaign donation by Lutgardo Acevedo. The articles of the referred code that are attributed are Article 269 (perjury), Article 212 (ideological falsification) and Article 217 (possession and transfer of falsified documents). The other six complaints are in relation to a contract for the installation of a telephone switchboard in the House.

An upcoming status hearing on the case was reportedly scheduled for April in an apparent appeal process.

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