HARLINGEN — Former state Rep. Jim Solis surrendered at noon Tuesday to a minimum-security prison camp in Arkansas to begin serving a sentence for bribery that begins a partial closure to his ordeal, his attorney said.
“He and his family still have a long way to go,” Solis’ attorney, retired Judge Robert Garza, said Tuesday.
Garza said Solis’ wife dropped him off at the Forrest City Low Satellite Camp Prison, about 85 miles east of Little Rock, to begin serving a 47-month sentence.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sentenced Solis on Aug. 2, more than two years after the ex-representative, a Harlingen Democrat, pleaded guilty on April 29, 2011, to assisting in ex-404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas’ racketeering scheme.
“He’s going to have to pay the price. He has been paying the price and his family has been paying the price,” Garza said of the consequences of Solis’ involvement in Limas’ racketeering scheme.
“I believe that he and his family have been through absolute hell,” Garza said. “It has not been easy.”
The attorney added that Solis has taken responsibility for his actions. Garza also reflected on how Limas ruined so many lives.
“This one person was able to take down all these people. It was wrong, but, it was also their choice,” Garza said of Solis and other defendants.
“It was an opportunity to make easy money, and he had worked so hard,” Garza said of Solis and of the sad and disappointing “defining moment” that changes someone’s life.
“It is what it is,” Garza said, adding that he is deeply saddened by the pain of Solis’ family, particularly the children.
Limas has been ordered to surrender to federal prison Dec. 3 to begin serving a six-year sentence for racketeering.
According to testimony and federal court records, Limas’ rulings were motivated by efforts to assist attorney Marc G. Rosenthal’s law firm. Solis was “of counsel” to the firm.
Solis said in his plea agreement that on May 8, 2008, he paid Limas $8,000, referred to as “golf balls,” at Rosenthal’s direction as partial consideration for Limas’ favorable ruling, benefiting the firm, Rosenthal and Solis.
The firm had several civil lawsuits in Limas’ court, representing plaintiffs in the case of Maria Guadalupe Garcia, individually, et al. vs. Metro Aviation, Inc., et al., which is commonly referred to as the helicopter crash case, and the Juan Antonio Coronado and Francisco Solis Ramirez vs. Peter Zavaletta, et al. case, referred to as the defamation case.
The plea agreement states that Limas entered favorable rulings in these cases for Rosenthal, Solis and the firm.
Solis also said that Rosenthal promised Limas an advance of at least $100,000 and a percentage of attorneys’ fees earned in the helicopter crash case.
Limas received $50,000 from the firm, $50,000 from Solis’ law account, and an additional payment from the firm of about $85,000, according to records.
During the two years from the time Solis pleaded guilty, the former seven-term District 38 state representative, along with Limas, became key government witnesses in trials against Rosenthal. He was found guilty by a Corpus Christi jury on 13 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, extortion, bribery, tampering with a witness, and tampering with a proceeding.
The late attorney Ray R. Marchan was found guilty by a jury in Brownsville and sentenced on six counts of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, aiding and abetting extortion and mail fraud. Marchan committed suicide in February, on the day he was scheduled to surrender to serve his sentence at a federal prison.
Ex-Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos was found guilty by a jury in Brownsville of racketeering, conspiracy to violate RICO and five counts of extortion. Villalobos awaits sentencing.
Hanen also ordered Solis to make restitution of a total of $118,127 to several victims. Former Cameron County District Attorney Yolanda De Leon was to receive $39,207; attorney Peter Zavaletta, $38,920; and Freedom Communications, $40,000.
Solis also forfeited $250,000 to the U.S. government.