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Stuart Rodrigues

Other Bexar County, Texas CIU exonerations
On October 25, 2012, police in San Antonio, Texas arrested 20-year-old Stuart Rodrigues on a charge of making terroristic threats against his 16-year-old sister, Katrinka.

After attorney Mark Benavides was appointed to represent him, Rodrigues pled no contest to the charge on November 5, 2012. The court withheld a finding of guilt and placed Rodrigues on deferred adjudication probation. He successfully completed the probation in November 2013.

In November 2015, Benavides was a candidate for judge in the 175th Judicial District in Bexar County when he was charged with compelling prostitution. Former female clients accused him of forcing them to have sex in exchange for his legal services.

In 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated the intoxication manslaughter conviction of one of Benavides’s clients, Sarina Sanchez, who claimed she was forced to have sex with him and that he videotaped the assault. She was later reconvicted.

As a result, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and its Conviction Integrity Unit, as well as the Bexar County Public Defender’s Office, began notifying Benavides’s former clients that they could seek relief from their convictions. Records showed that Benavides had handled about 5,000 misdemeanor cases in Bexar County.

In 2017, an attorney for Rodrigues filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate Rodrigues’s case. The writ included an affidavit from Rodrigues’s sister saying that Benavides never talked to her about the case. Had he done so, she would have told him that she never felt in physical danger—which is an element necessary to sustain a conviction for making a terroristic threat.

The Conviction Integrity Unit learned that Rodrigues entered into the plea only 20 minutes after meeting Benavides. Rodrigues’s mother found out about the plea, and learned that a one year no-contact order was a condition of the deferred adjudication. As a result, Rodrigues could not stay at home with her. When she contacted Benavides, however, he told her that it was too late.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit signed an agreement supporting the petition. On March 6, 2018, Rodrigues’s case was vacated and dismissed.

Less than a month later, a jury convicted Benavides of six counts of sex trafficking. The jury heard testimony from six women who said that Benavides took them to a motel for sex on days when they were scheduled to appear in court. Sometimes, the sexual encounters occurred at the Bexar County Courthouse in witness and jury rooms before the women appeared in court. Benavides was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/26/2020
Most Serious Crime:Threats
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2012
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No