CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A judge on Monday dismissed a perjury charge against an embattled South Texas Democratic donor, saying the venue was improper.
Visiting Judge Mark Luitjen did not rule on the validity of the perjury charge against Mauricio Celis, but said it must be brought in Zapata County, the location where Celis made the statement in question.
Also on Monday, Celis pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and impersonating a lawyer. He was indicted on those charges last week.
Celis, 36, owned Corpus Christi-based CGT Law Group International before coming under public scrutiny after a bizarre incident with police in September and an ad campaign by another lawyer claiming Celis was not a licensed attorney. He was indicted last fall on four felony charges of impersonating a lawyer and a police officer, perjury and theft and indicted twice more on Friday.
Tony Canales, Celis' attorney, said the dismissal of the new perjury charge is evidence that prosecutors have gone too far.
"You can indict a ham sandwich in front of a grand jury," Canales said in a story posted Monday on the Corpus Christi Caller-Times' Web site.
The perjury charge stemmed from testimony about whether Celis has a law degree from a Mexican university.
Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez said he was disappointed in the ruling but plans to refer the case to the Zapata County district attorney.
Celis also has been sued by the Texas Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for allegedly practicing law without a license.
Celis has contributed thousands to state and federal candidates, including the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Several candidates for state office who accepted campaign cash from Celis have since donated it to charity.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.