Bexar County - Prostitution charges have been filed against a San Antonia attorney by several women claiming he coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for legal representation.
Mark Benavides, who was running for judge in the 175th District Court at the time of his arrest, was arrested on Nov. 17 and charged with compelling prostitution, a second-degree felony. He was released from Bexar County jail on $15,000 bond that same night.
According to his campaign for judgeship, Benavides, 46, has practiced law for 14 years and specializes in Criminal Defense, Family Law, Personal Injury, Commercial Litigation, Probate and Mediation and Arbitration; with Criminal Law comprising the majority of his caseload. His campaign states “he has dedicated his efforts to help those in need.”
Dane Ciolino, legal ethics expert and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans told the Record that the seriousness of these allegations could lead to disbarment.
“In order to be a judge you have to be a lawyer, and whether he’s going to be a judge is the least of his concerns now. Right not he needs to be more concerned about if he’s going to be disbarred or prosecuted,” Ciolini said.
The charges were based on an affidavit with testimony from three alleged victims who all claim to have had forced sexual encounters with Benavides while he was representing them in their respective cases. The affidavit states that all three women told investigators that Benavides has a distinct tattoo of the scales of justice on his back, which helped corroborate their stories.
According to the affidavit, the first woman claimed that she met Benavides in 2005 when she was 21 and working as a prostitute on the West Side. She said the two had sex and Benavides allegedly offered her additional money to film the encounter. Then, she claims, Benavides gave her his card and told her to contact him if she needed any legal help. The affidavit states that this prompted numerous sexual encounters in Benavides’ car, his law office, his father’s office and in the courthouse.
When she allegedly refused his advances, he reminded her that he had video of them having sex, the affidavit says.
The accuser told investigators that Benavides began to represent her in court in 2009, but she never paid for legal services in cash, always sex -- even at times when she didn’t want to.
The affidavit states that a second woman came forward and said she was a former client of Benavides’ had multiple sexual encounters with him at his friend’s office. A witness who allegedly filmed some of the encounters was also interviewed by the police.
The former client alleged that she was a defendant in a criminal case in 2012 in the 399th District Court. She claims that Benavides’ relationship with judge led her to believe she would hurt her case if she refused to have sex with Benavides.
According to the affidavit, a third accuser claimed that Benavides represented her in two separate cases, and when she ran out of money she began to meet him every Tuesday at the River Inn Motel to give him sexual favors in exchange for his continued legal services.
On one particular week she allegedly refused to meet Benavides for sex. The affidavit claims that Benavides made good on his threat to help her on her bond, and she was subsequently arrested.
In an October hearing, Benavides denied all claims against him.
He did not respond to requests for a statement.