U.S. District Judge Robert P. Aguilar was convicted today of obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI and for alerting an aging mobster that he was under surveillance.
The jury acquitted the bespectacled jurist from San Jose of three other counts, including the most serious charge--conspiracy to obstruct justice by trying to use his influence with another judge on behalf of a former Teamster leader who was trying to have a 1980 conviction overturned.
It was the second time Aguilar had been tried. A jury in March acquitted him on one charge and deadlocked on seven others.
Aguilar, 59, also was cleared today of telling a law school classmate to lie to a grand jury that was investigating the judge, and of a second count of telling mobster Abe Chapman, 84, a longtime family friend, that he was being watched by law enforcement.
Aguilar, only the third federal judge in the United States to have been convicted of criminal wrongdoing and the first from California, will continue to collect his $89,500 salary until he resigns or is removed by Congress.
He faces a sentence of as much as five years in prison for each guilty verdict and a fine of roughly $250,000 when U.S. District Judge Louis Bechtle sentences him on Nov. 1.
Aguilar, who has been on the federal bench since 1980, stiffly refused comment as he left the courtroom this morning.
"It's unfortunate because it ends a long and distinguished career," said Paul Meltzer, Aguilar's attorney.
Meltzer said he did not know whether Aguilar would remain on the bench while he fights his expected impeachment in Congress. But he added that the judge most likely would follow the advice of Chief U.S. District Judge William Ingram of the Northern District of California. Ingram could not be reached.
Meltzer said he was somewhat heartened that Aguilar was acquitted of the core conspiracy charge. But, he noted, "In the end, I think you have to face the fact that . . . he was convicted of a felony."
Prosecutors from the Justice Department's Public Integrity Unit showed no emotion while the jury was in the courtroom. But once the judge and jury left, prosecution team members hugged one another.
William Keefer, the lead prosecutor, declined to talk in any detail after he left the courtroom. He simply thanked the FBI and said he was "not about to second-guess the jury" for returning the mixed verdict.