HARLINGEN, Texas — A man who was able to escape a 2007 murder conviction in a scheme that sent a former South Texas prosecutor and judge to prison was returned to Texas on Tuesday to begin serving his prison sentence after his capture in India.
A plane carrying Amit M. Livingston arrived in Harlingen from New Jersey shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday. Livingston was booked into a Cameron County jail where he will remain until Wednesday, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said. After a federal court appearance, he is to be turned over to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to begin serving his 23-year prison sentence for the 2005 killing of his former lover.
Livingston, who's now 47, pleaded guilty in 2007 to killing 31-year-old Hermila Hernandez in 2005 and leaving her body on a South Padre Island beach. Hernandez had been shot in the back of the head after telling Livingston she wanted to end their relationship.
After sentencing, the trial judge, state District Judge Abel Limas, took the unusual step of allowing Livingston time to get his affairs in order before reporting to prison. When Livingston's date for reporting to prison arrived, he failed to appear.
Limas and the district attorney at the time, Armando Villalobos, were both later convicted in a bribery conspiracy, and the scheme that allowed Livingston to escape featured prominently in the federal corruption trial of Villalobos.
Villalobos had arranged to have a friend and former law partner represent the interests of Hernandez's three children in a related lawsuit. By agreeing to convict and sentence Livingston on the same day, Limas freed up the $500,000 bond that had been posted for his release before trial. An agreement was reached to use that bond money to settle the lawsuit. The lawyer representing the children took $200,000 of it in fees, passing $80,000 on to Villalobos and $10,000 to Limas.
When Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in prison in February 2014, Hermila Garcia, Hernandez's mother, told the judge that Villalobos "robbed us of justice to sell the murderer his freedom."
Limas, who pleaded guilty to racketeering, received six years in prison.
Livingston was captured in May 2014 in the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad. He had remained in the custody of Indian officials until earlier this week, when India turned him over to the U.S. officials under terms of a 1997 extradition treaty.