Betti's Blue Notes

Singing (and Stinging) in the rain

DeGuerin also threatened to launch his own investigation if Contreras suffers because of his friendship with Maldonado. "I'd feel as strong about that as if someone tried to retaliate if we had chosen to use Art Contreras as one of our character witnesses." The attorney compared the investigation of Contreras to "a situation a couple of years ago where the IRS started auditing people we had called as witnesses, and that's pure retaliation, and that's illegal."

As for the question of inappropriate behavior, DeGuerin retorts, "If I got up on stage and dropped my trousers, that would be inappropriate behavior for me just as a person. [But] you've got to draw the line somewhere, and at a private party for friends, I just don't think it's anybody's business."

While Maldonado may regret causing trouble for a friend, she undoubtedly wishes another old associate, former judge and city councilman John Peavy, had been willing to sing for her during a last-minute attempt to negotiate a plea bargain and avert the second trial of Maldonado and former councilman Ben Reyes. The three remaining defendants, Houston City Councilmen John Castillo, Michael Yarbrough and Peavy, are tentatively scheduled to be tried in the spring.

According to sources close to the lawyers and defendants in the case, Reyes attorney Mike Ramsey and federal prosecutor Mike Attanasio met repeatedly to try to negotiate a plea bargain encompassing all five defendants. The feds insisted that all defendants be involved in any possible deal.

On the defendants' side, the effort stopped cold when Peavy's wife Diane Peavy adamantly refused to consider that her husband should admit to anything. Prosecutors offered a package deal with minimal charges for Maldonado and no jail time. Neither Ramsey nor Peavy attorney Dan Cogdell returned Insider inquiries.

Sources say there were other roadblocks to a deal. Justice Department officials were extremely reluctant to let Reyes off with a light jail sentence. But because of Peavy's refusal, the talks ended. Reyes and Maldonado were tried and convicted.

Maldonado attorney DeGuerin refused to specifically confirm or deny that Maldonado had a deal within her grasp to avoid jail. "I will say that in any case there's always a duty lawyers on both sides owe their clients, whether it's the government or the defendants, to find out what's on the table." Attanasio declined to comment.

DeGuerin, who was not a source for this story, is concerned that the column might be seen as an effort to influence Judge Hittner to let his client off with a lighter sentence.

"I'm not trying to tell you how to do your business," says the lawyer. "But I'm concerned about how Hittner's going to see this, thinking it's coming from me or from Ramsey ... and what he's going to do to Betti as a result of it."

Given the way things have been going for her lately, a get-out-of-jail card is probably the last thing Maldonado should expect the judge to deal her.

Relay your news tips to the Insider. Call him at (713)280-2483, fax him at (713)280-2496, or e-mail him at insider@houstonpress.com.

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