Benny and the Judges have seen a lot of judicial action during December. Let’s start with the big one. Regional press headlines on the 16th boomed out, “Un jurado popular absuelve a Benavides” (A jury acquits Benavides). This was the second time in just two months that Juan Carlos Benavides – against all expectation – walked away from a date with the Judge a free and innocent man.
To recap, on the 14th & 15th of last month, the Mayor stood accused of embezzlement: Sr. Benavides allegedly used public funds to fund the court case against the ex-Mayor despite the case being a private case and not one lodged by the Town Hall. The Public Prosecutors accused the Mayor of using 6,000 euros from the municipal coffers as a deposit before the court. He faced two years banned from office and a 27,000 euro fine.
Sr. Benavides said in his defence that he was not aware that it was a private case, and as far as he was concerned, it was a municipal affair. Furthermore, he claimed that the lawsuit was presented by municipal lawyers and when he was called to ratify it, at no time was it mentioned that it was a private lawsuit. Some would claim that nothing moves in the Town Hall without the Mayor’s knowledge and consent, but that is an opinion, and not one put forward by the Public Prosecutor. Finally, and this was the clincher, the case was brought about in the interest of the public coffer, to recuperate funds that the Mayor claimed had been misspent by the ex-Mayor, Juan Luis González Montoro.
What the Public Prosecutor did put forward for consideration by the jury was that if the lawsuit had been presented as a public prosecution then the Mayor would have included that point in the documentation, which would have included a certificate to identify him as the representative of the claimant and a municipal council resolution, authorising the claim. None of which was the case.
After brief deliberation the jury returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict. End of story.
Another case that had been brought against him, together with six councillors belonging to his party, was set for the 16th of December but has been postponed to next year. He faces a charge of an offence against regional building regulations, for having built the La Herradura sports centre on green-belt land. If found guilty, he faces two years in prison and ten years barred from office.
As for the trial that took place on the 2nd of December, concerning his alleged use of slander, we are still waiting for a verdict. In this one he allegedly implied that the then female leader of the local socialist party had ‘slept her way up the ladder:’ he reportedly made a comment that implied that her relationship with the provincial head of her party had been more than ‘work based.’ The whole issue really hangs on his use of the word ‘Zorra’ (which translates as vixen or slut). The female councillor had observed that putting the governing party in charge of keeping an eye of Tropical Fruits funds was like “putting the fox (zorro) in charge of guarding the chickens.” The Mayor quipped, “Or Vixen (slut).”
Now, his defence lawyer claims that in every fable ever written, it’s always the zorra and never zorro that appears and that the Mayor had merely and kindly made a literary correction…
As for the Mayor’s comment about certain people ‘sleeping their way up the ladder,’ the defence lawyer claims that in no way was he referring to the female councillor in question. In fact, he hadn’t been referring to anybody in particular, at all, or any political party, and it is all down to a misunderstanding. In fact the Mayor feels great indignation at the way in which, he claims, the press and political opponents have manipulated the situation.
The female councillor, Rocío Palacios, on the other hand, claims that not only she interpreted the Mayor’s words that way, but just about everybody else did in the hall, because, according to her, he said these words looking straight at her. The Mayor claims that he had not been looking at her and this claim is backed by the municipal stenographer, who was recording the session.
As we said, as this was before a tribunal and not a jury, we are still waiting for the verdict.[nggallery id=33]