There were already questions swirling about whether State District Judge Carlos Cortez' moral character befit the dignity of the office. As The Dallas Morning News detailed earlier this month, he is in the middle of a long-running legal battle to keep allegations about his personal life, reportedly involving drug use and prostitutes, from becoming public.
Needless to say, accusations that he repeatedly choked his girlfriend over the weekend, once while leaning her over the edge of the balcony of his McKinney Avenue condo, will do little to help his image.
According to a police report, Cortez and his girlfriend of 13 months began arguing early Saturday morning over the location of medicine belonging to a "juvenile male witness." Both had been drinking for several hours.
Cortez eventually handed over the medication, but not before the woman had called the cops. The couple greeted police in the building's lobby, explaining they'd exchanged words but that the dispute had been settled.
Then, according to the report, the woman, 26, asked to speak with officers privately. She went with them to another part of the lobby where pulled down the collar of her blouse to reveal several red marks that "appeared to encompass the majority of her neck."
She and Cortez had been arguing, she told officers, but it didn't end there. During the row, Cortez had walked up to her while she was sitting on the couch, grabbed her by the hair, and began choking her with both hands until she became dizzy.
This happened several more times over the next 15 minutes, she said. At one point, she says Cortez dragged her by the hair and choked for 15 seconds while leaning her over the edge of the balcony. The attack was punctuated by threats: "I'm going to fucking kill you, you fucking cunt," Cortez allegedly told her.
Police cuffed Cortez and took him to Lew Sterrett on suspicion of felony family violence assault. He posted bond later that day.
Andy Korn, Cortez's attorney, released a statement Saturday denying the girlfriend's claims and pointing out that Cortez has not yet been indicted or formally charged with a crime.
"Judge Cortez will speak specifically to the arrest in any official proceeding that may result," the statement said.
It might have been wise for the Korn to end there, but he goes on to claim that, contrary to the girlfriend's account, Cortez "actually saved her life." Then, because Cortez is a sitting judge facing a challenge in the Democratic primary in March, he adds that his client is "an award winning jurist who handles his court with courtesy and dignity to all who seek Justice."
That may be true. Cortez' conduct on the civil bench has earned the respect of David Kelton, the Republican judge he unseated in 2006, among others. How that has any bearing on whether or not he choked his girlfriend, however, isn't clear. Perhaps that will become so as the case makes its way through court.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.