Despite bribery conviction, former Starr County justice of the peace will run for office

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Salvador Zarate Jr.
Salvador Zarate Jr.

As he appeals his conviction on felony bribery charges, a former justice of the peace in Starr County has filed to run for the post he held when he accepted money to lower the bonds of two defendants.

Records from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office show that Salvador Zarate Jr. has filed to run for the post from which he was suspended in July 2015 by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, The Monitor reported.

Zarate is able to run for the office despite his felony conviction because the case is on appeal, which means the conviction is not final.

A jury convicted him on bribery charges in April 2016 following an incident in late 2014 in which Zarate accepted $500 from an undercover informant to lower the bonds of two defendants from $30,000 to $5,000. After Zarate entered his pickup truck, investigators cornered him and found a small amount of cocaine in the vehicle.

Zarate was also charged with possession of a controlled substance, but the jury acquitted him on that charge.

District Judge Jose Luis Garza sentenced Zarate to five years probation and 30 days in county jail. Zarate also had to resign from office as part of the sentencing and undergo regular drug testing.

Zarate will now face the man who was appointed to replace him in the election. Eloy Zarate Jr., who is not related, was named a temporary replacement in August 2016. Eloy Zarate has also filed to run for justice of the peace and the two men will face each other in the Democratic primary next March.

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