U.S. District Judge David Ezra believes there's enough evidence against Democratic state Senator Carlos Uresti and his co-defendant Gary Cain that their federal fraud trial should continue as planned.
On Wednesday, shortly after U.S. prosecutors questioned their final witness in the San Antonio courtroom, defense lawyers asked Ezra to acquit their two clients, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
But Ezra said the prosecution had already presented enough "telling evidence" against Uresti and Cain that, if believed by the jury, could find both men guilty.
“I’m not saying the defendants are guilty. It is up to the jury to decide. But at this point, the government has presented enough evidence,” Ezra said, the Express-News
Uresti and Cain are facing a combined 20 felony charges linked to their role in FourWinds Logistics, a company that bought and sold sand used in the hydraulic fracking process. Among other things, the men are accused of forging bank statements to convince investors their company was financially thriving, and spending their investments on lavish parities and luxury items, not sand. FourWinds filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
In his acquittal request, Uresti's lead lawyer Michael McCrum reiterated the argument he made in the trial's opening statements — that Uresti had "no knowledge" of the fraudulent shenanigans going on within the company.
The federal trial was originally expected to last around three weeks. But the trial just hit its halfway point on Wednesday — two days before the three week mark.
After Ezra's dismissal of the defense's acquittal request, McCrum called the defense's first witness to the stand, a friend of Uresti's who helped the lawmaker recruit FourWinds investors. According to the Express-News,
the defense plans on calling on around 15 yet-to-be-named witnesses. In December, Uresti's lawyers submitted a list of more than 200 potential witnesses, including fellow Democratic state Sen. José Menéndez, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, former San Antonio Mayors Julián Castro and Henry Cisneros, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood.