SAN JUAN – Former Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was found not guilty Friday after a month-long federal trial on nine counts of corruption.
The federal jury in San Juan also acquitted the governor’s one-time aide Luisa Inclan Bird.
The verdict was reached at 6:45 p.m., an hour after Judge Paul J. Barbadoro accepted jurors’ request to adjourn for the day and resume deliberations Saturday.
After the verdict was read, Acevedo Vila embraced his attorneys and his mother, Elba Vila, told reporters that “justice has been done.”
Around 100 partisans of Acevedo Vila’s Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, who were waiting outside the courthouse burst into celebration when they learned of the acquittals.
The federal indictment against the former governor and a dozen associates contended that they systematically violated the law to pay off some $500,000 in debt from Acevedo Vila’s 2000 bid to represent Puerto Rico in Washington and his 2004 gubernatorial campaign.
Nine of the politico’s co-defendants reached plea agreements with prosecutors and several of them testified against Acevedo Vila during the trial.
Announced last spring, the corruption charges crippled Acevedo Vila’s bid for a second term and he lost the Nov. 4 election to Luis Fortuño of the New Progressive Party, or PNP, which advocates U.S. statehood for the Caribbean island.
Acevedo Vila, who faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted, steadfastly maintained his innocence and said that the indictment was politically motivated.
The PPD wants Puerto Rico to retain its status as a U.S. commonwealth, but with expanded autonomy. EFE