After being dismissed, former judge Bento was imprisoned in Mendoza

Judge Walter Bento speaks during a court hearing (Photo: Adrián Escandar)
Judge Walter Bento speaks during a court hearing (Photo: Adrián Escandar)

The former federal judge of Mendoza Walter Bento He was arrested this afternoon a few minutes after the Jury for Prosecution of National Magistrates removed him from office for poor performance of his duties. With that decision, the former magistrate lost his immunity from arrest and thus the preventive detentions that he had dictated in a corruption case that he faces and that could not be executed by the jurisdictions came into force.

The arrest was ordered by the Federal Oral Court 2 of Mendoza when the Prosecution Jury notified him of the dismissal. Bento did not have to be searched (a search for him at his house had been ordered). He was in court. He had gone there to present a document in which he reported that he had been dismissed and that he was going to appeal that decision, so the dismissal was not final.

“Once the process in question has concluded, the legal status of the accused Walter Ricardo Bento has been modified, who as of that date has been removed from his jurisdictional position and, therefore, no longer has the jurisdiction that confers him immunity. Having said that, “It is up to this court to enforce the preventive detention of Walter Ricardo Bento, which was duly ordered during the investigation phase, and whose decision is final.”pointed out the judges of the Oral Court Gretel Diamante, María Carolina Pereira and Eliana Rattá.

The court ordered that Bento be provisionally detained in Penitentiary Unit 32 to be transferred to the Federal Penitentiary Complex VI of Luján de Cuyo when there is a need, which was requested “urgently.” The former judge’s lawyer, Mariano Fragueiro Fríasannounced that he will appeal the arrest and request his release from the Federal Court of Criminal Cassation.

Bento was dismissed today for five reasons for poor performance of his duties. By majority, the Prosecution Jury of the Nation’s Magistrates understood that in the case there was “serious reasons”, “detriment to suitability” and “loss of skills”.

“We are going to present an extraordinary appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to appeal the dismissal and We believe that this presentation has suspensive effects on the effects of the ruling. If that doesn’t work, Bento is going to go to prison, he is not going to escape“, Fragueiro Frías had said after reading the dismissal and before Bento’s arrest.

The National Constitution establishes that the decision of the Jury is not appealable and, without jurisdiction, you could be detained. However, Bento’s defense will be based on precedents where the appeals were accepted to reach the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. In this way, he will seek to ensure that the Oral Court does not order the arrest.

Those who voted for the dismissal were the judge Javier Leal de Ibarra; the senators Daniel Bensusan (from the Frente de Todos) and Jose Torello (from the PRO and former government official of Mauricio Macri); the deputies Anahi Costa (from the Frente de Todos) and Ana Romero (from the PRO); and the lawyer Alfredo Barrau. Meanwhile, the judge Javier de la Fuente The minority was inclined to reject the accusations.

The moment of the reading of the verdict that ordered the dismissal of Judge Walter Bento (Photos: Maximiliano Luna)
The moment of the reading of the verdict that ordered the dismissal of Judge Walter Bento (Photos: Maximiliano Luna)

The majority understood that Bento – who was in charge of federal court 1 of Mendoza, key for politics because he was in charge of the elections in the province – carried out maneuvers to hinder the criminal case against him; that he sold a property and failed to declare that he was a politically exposed person and thus avoid judicial seizures; that he “unscrupulously” obtained a mortgage loan when he already had properties and for purposes other than those for which he requested it; that he failed to include two bicycles and a Rolex watch in his sworn statements from 2005 to 2020; and for having registered in a public competition to be a judge of the Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation when he knew that he did not meet the requirements to do so. These were the five reasons for which the judge was dismissed. The accusation that was discarded was that of having indecorous conduct for traveling to the city of Las Vegas and staying in hotels with casinos.

“Dr. Walter Ricardo Bento has committed acts that “harm the public service, dishonor the country or the public office” [Fallos 305:113]which, based on the considerations taken into account in the preceding paragraphs, constitutes a cause for poor performance”, upheld the majority vote in the ruling.

The jurors added that the accusations against the judge “are truly serious and imply a serious impairment of his suitability to continue exercising the judiciary, as his conduct evidences designs that go against the principles that should govern his actions as a member of the National Judiciary and represent faults that demonstrate the loss of essential skills for a judge to deserve public trust, especially if the sensitive issues on which he has to issue a decision are taken into account.

And finally: “It is painful for this Court that a judge of the Nation in whom public trust had been placed to decide on the freedom of individuals, as well as control of the elections in the province of Mendoza, has deviated of his correct conduct to the point of deserving his dismissal due to the events that have developed in the preceding recitals, since it will never be auspicious for the service of justice to have to remove a magistrate for his poor performance or misconduct.”

For his part, de la Fuente in his vote declared the first accusation null because it is part of the accusation that Bento faces in the oral trial and of the remaining ones he said that the Prosecutor’s Office failed to demonstrate that there was poor performance.

The members of the Jury of Prosecution
The members of the Jury of Prosecution

“We are absolutely satisfied with the Jury’s decision. It was an accusation that was approved unanimously by the Nation’s Judicial Council. In any case, it is a sad day for the republic because they dismissed a judge but it was shown that the institutions work,” the lawyer and member of the Council said in dialogue with the press. Miguel Piedecasas that together with his colleagues Eduardo Vischi (national senate of the UCR) and Roxana Reyes (radical deputy) acted as prosecutors in the trial.

Asked about Bento’s possible arrest, Vischi said that “This issue does not concern this process because only the dismissal of the magistrate was resolved here.”

On May 31, Bento was suspended from his position and sent to impeachment unanimously by the Council. Bento’s name had inaugurated the Council in its new stage of 20 members with the arrival of the body of Horacio Rosattihead of the Supreme Court, after the highest court declared the previous composition of 13 councilors unconstitutional.

The first decision made by the new Council – also unanimously among all political forces and sectors – was to exclude Bento in April of last year from the Cassation contest for which he had signed up when he could not because he was being prosecuted in the criminal case. and that is a prohibition of the law. One of the five reasons why Bento was dismissed today was for signing up for that contest.

The prosecutors in charge of the prosecution
The prosecutors in charge of the prosecution

The Jury’s hearing began at 12 noon sharp. It was only for the reading of the verdict and some brief conclusions on each of the accusations that the secretary of the court read. Marcelo Bova. The Jury then released the ruling, which is 180 pages long.

In parallel to the impeachment trial, Bento faces a oral trial in Mendoza for the crimes of illicit association, passive bribery, omission and delay of justice, illicit enrichment, laundering of criminal assets, prevarication and ideological falsehood.

In that case he had eight prosecutions with preventive detention. Bento is accused of being the head of an illicit association that, from his court, committed several crimes. One of them having collected bribes through lawyers from defendants in their cases. Around thirty people are being tried with him, including his wife and two of his children, accused of being his front men in illicit enrichment.

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