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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Clerks Say County Must Pay for Creepy Judge

EL PASO, Texas (CN) - Two court clerks claim Culberson County fired them to retaliate for their true reports that a judge had sexually harassed them, brought child pornography to work and stole county money. Former Justice of the Peace Oscar Espinoza is serving time for mail fraud.

Diana Baeza and Lorina Gonzales claim that after they turned Espinoza in to the authorities, his successor, Rita Carrasco, gave them the ax.

Espinosa was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay over $90,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud. He admitted that he cashed checks and money orders meant for traffic fines and spent the money on himself from 2007 to 2009, Courthouse News reported in November 2010.

Baeza worked as a clerk for Espinoza since 2000.

Gonzales says that she began working at part time in 1995, and was promoted in 200 to the full-time position of chief clerk under Espinoza.

They say Espinoza sexually harassed them for years.

"This harassment included, but was not limited to, offensive touching, sexually explicit verbal comments, leaving pornographic material in full view and bringing child pornography into the work place. This conduct took place weekly for several years. Plaintiffs felt humiliated, degraded and powerless," the complaint states.

The women say that after Espinoza retired in February 2010, he still came into the office "at least two or three times a week," and continued harassing them.

They say they made good-faith reports of Espinoza's antics, including misappropriation of county funds, to "various law enforcement agencies, including the El Paso Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations."

Espinoza was indicted on eight counts of mail fraud and five counts of money laundering in May 2010, according to the women's complaint. He pleaded guilty in August 2010 to one count and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

After he retired, Espinoza campaigned for Rita Carrasco to replace him, the complaint states. Carrasco was elected and on her first day in office, Nov. 4, 2010, she fired Baeza and Gonzales without cause, they say.

Actually, they say, the cause was retaliation for blowing the whistle on Espinoza.

They seek an injunction, reinstatement, lost wages, and compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the Whistleblower Act and retaliation.

The only defendant is Culberson County.

Baeza and Gonzales are represented by Lynn Coyle with Dominguez & Coyle.

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