Posted April 13, 2018, 2:47 pm CDT
A Texas jury sentenced former San Antonio lawyer Mark Benavides to 80 years in prison April 6 for coercing clients to have sex with him in exchange for legal services.
Benavides was convicted of six counts of continuous trafficking of persons, Dallas News reported. He was indicted in 2016 on 18 counts of sexual assault and 17 counts of compelling prostitution. He had represented his victims as a court-appointed lawyer. At the time of his arrest, Benavides was running for a judgeship as a Democrat. He was disbarred in December 2016.
Law360 reported that the initial complaint included allegations that between 2009 and 2015, Benavides forced clients to have sex in courtroom conference rooms, a motel and his office.
Women who testified against Benavides said they felt the lawyer would not give them proper legal representation if they did not agree to have sex with him. Defense lawyers said the sexual encounters were consensual.
Two of Benavides’ accusers told authorities Benavides represented them for prostitution cases and told them he would “get it dropped if we have sex,” according to Law360.
Benavides videotaped the sexual encounters. Dallas News reported that authorities confiscated almost 250 DVDs of Benavides having sex with the victims. Some videos were shown during the trial, and a juror fainted after viewing a graphic video of rough sex. The judge excused the woman from the jury.
According to Dallas News, Benavides still faces trial on other charges, including another count of continuous trafficking of persons, two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of sexual assault.
Kens 5 reported that prosecutors say that because Benavides coerced female clients for sex, as many as 5,357 misdemeanor cases he handled may be tainted.
“There is a potential that if he represented that many people for the 15 years that he practiced law, then there are that many cases that he has touched, and that many people that we might have to review convictions on. It’s huge,” prosecutor Meredith Chacon told Kens 5.
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