Standing before a federal judge in a San Antonio courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, former state Sen. Carlos Uresti was contrite.
“I truly feel remorseful, ashamed, disappointed, disgraced, angry at myself and sad,” Uresti told the court, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
But shortly after, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse about his plans to appeal a 12-year federal prison sentence he said he does not “believe is fair and just,” the two-decade veteran of the Texas Legislature seemed anything but remorseful.
The sentence he received Tuesday — and the $6.3 million in restitution he’s been ordered to pay to victims of a Ponzi scheme he was convicted of helping carry out — is “just another obstacle,” Uresti said.
“When you’re right, you never give up,” he said. “And we’re right, so we’re not going to give up.”
The San Antonio Democrat was convicted Feb. 22 of 11 felonies, including money laundering and fraud, tied to his work with FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oilfield services company where Uresti worked as general counsel, owned a 1 percent stake and earned a commission for recruiting investors, according to court documents.
Uresti also is preparing for a separate federal criminal trial set for Oct. 22 in the same San Antonio courthouse. He will remain out on bond until that trial, the Express-News reported.
Uresti resigned last week, telling the San Antonio Express-News that his decision to leave office was not an attempt to win a more lenient sentence. Experts have told The Texas Tribune that resigning his seat — which colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been calling for since just after the verdict was handed down earlier this year — could win him favor with prosecutors in the October trial.
Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge David E. Ezra for a sentence of 17 and a half years in prison. But after the shorter sentence came down, lead prosecutor Joe Blackwell said it was “an appropriate outcome.”
“It sends the right message to the public. It also vindicates the rights of the victims,” Blackwell said. “We think justice was done.”
Uresti’s defense attorneys had asked for a more lenient sentence, touting the former lawmaker's “lifetime of honorable achievements,” particularly his legislative efforts to protect vulnerable children. Many of Uresti’s supporters came to the hearing wearing blue wristbands or ribbons in support of a blue-ribbon task force he created to protect vulnerable Texas children.
Uresti said he is doing “whatever I can” to come up with the millions he owes victims.
“I’ve been working on that since my conviction — selling my building, selling my home,” he said.
Eight candidates— including Uresti's brother, state Rep. Tomas Uresti, D-San Antonio — have lined up for the July 31 race to replace him: four Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian. Tomas Uresti, a freshman in the state House, lost his primary in March — a somewhat surprising result many attributed to his brother’s conviction.