Sworn testimony in Carlos Cortez's defamation case contains a litany of shocking criminal accusations against the sitting Dallas county judge. The Texas Court of Appeals ordered the court documents to be released April 16. Cortez had fought to keep them private for more than three years.
The testimony alleging prostitution, cocaine use and child rape stems from Cortez's 2010 defamation lawsuit against his former attorney, Randy Johnston. The contested documents are the sworn depositions of Melinda Henry, a cocktail waitress at a Dallas strip club named Silver City; Crystal Haynes, a woman who says she was assaulted by Cortez when she was a child; and Cortez himself.
Calls and emails to Cortez's attorney, Broadus Spivey, were not immediately returned. The woman who answered the phone at Judge Cortez's court hung up on a reporter mid-sentence when asked for comment.
An allegation of child rape
Crystal Haynes was 6 years old when Carlos Cortez started dating her mom, Patti Haynes. Crystal said Cortez lived with them and her younger sister for about four years.
"Carlos has this thing during relations of choking me or putting his hands over my mouth and my nose so I cannot breathe," Melinda Henry said.
During that time, Crystal said Cortez introduced a game where he would blindfold the girls and ask them to guess what food was in their mouths. Crystal said she often stayed alone at the house with Cortez while her mom would go out on errands with her younger sister. That’s when the "game" changed.
"I would lay on the bed, and he would blindfold me, and he would make me lay with my hands behind my back," Crystal said. "And then he would straddle me and he’d start out with foods a few times and then he would slowly move his way up his legs further and higher on my body, and then he would just use his body parts."
Crystal said she was 8 years old when Cortez first put his penis in her mouth under the guise of a game. She said the conduct continued until she was 10 years old and told someone at school about the abuse. She would later relay the story to CPS counselors.
Although Cortez was arrested, the case never went to trial. Crystal said her mother was worried about what might happen to them if they came forward. "She says that he’s dangerous and that he told her that he could make us both disappear. He has people that can take care of us and nobody would find out who did it."
Silver City tales
In her deposition, Melinda Henry said Cortez came into the strip club where she worked three or four times a week during the day and drank red wine. Henry said a stripper at Silver City who knew Cortez told her that he wanted to have sex with Henry and would pay her in form of drugs and cash. She said their sexual encounters were often violent.
"Carlos has this thing during relations of choking me or putting his hands over my mouth and my nose so I cannot breathe. It’s not something that I asked for or even liked him to do that," Henry said. "I’m a very claustrophobic person and it is a scare tactic because it’s not something I can handle."
In an unrelated case from December 2013, Cortez was accused of strangling his girlfriend and threatening to kill her. A grand jury declined to indict him on felony assault charges.
Henry said she saw Cortez snort lines of coke at his law office and in his condo. During these 2006 visits, Henry said Cortez paid her between $50 and $200 for sex acts. She knew Cortez was a lawyer, but she didn’t know he was running for judge. "It kind of shocked of me," she said.
Cortez said that when he made a statement about snorting cocaine off a stripper’s ass, he was just repeating a line from a movie.
Cortez was elected as a Dallas county judge in the 44th District Court in January 2007, shortly after Henry's son was born under questionable paternity. "I have strong suspicions that Carlos is the father," Henry said. In addition to the fact that her son resembles Cortez, Henry said that the two other men whom she was sleeping with at time have taken DNA tests at Dallas facilities. Both came back negative.
Cortez, however, didn't want to go to a testing center. Henry said she and Cortez went to a grocery store off Lovers Lane in Dallas so he could take his paternity test alone in the men's restroom.
"Carlos had told me that under no circumstances should anyone ever find out that he’s the father, that I was to tell people that it was some guy," Henry said.
When the paternity test came back negative, Henry said Cortez asked her not to challenge the results. Then, according to Henry, the couple went back to Cortez’s condo and had a final, violent sexual encounter.
"He nearly choked me to where I passed out," she said, adding he told her "It’s best if you behave."
The judge's own words
In his deposition, Cortez said allegations that he used drugs or hired prostitutes were untrue. "I have never used any illegal drug ever, and specifically, no, not cocaine."
On the advice of his lawyer, Cortez refused to answer questions about whether or not he’d ever attended a men’s strip club. Cortez said that when he made a statement about snorting cocaine off a stripper’s ass, he was just repeating a line from the movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.
When pressed, Cortez testified that he recalled paying for lap dances on a few occasions but wasn't a fan of them. "Not my cup of tea," the judge said.
Cortez acknowledged that he knew Melinda Henry, whom he identified as a waitress at Silver City. Cortez said he never gave Henry money for sex and did not know she had previous convictions for prostitution.
On the advice of counsel, Cortez also refused to answer questions about the CPS investigation into his conduct with Crystal Haynes.
Henry, who cut off contact with Cortez in 2007, said she found out about the lawsuit only after Googling Cortez’s name.
"When I saw that Carlos Cortez had filed against someone for defamation of character, well that’s kind of ironic. … I got down to the paragraph where it was Carlos blatantly denied accusations of drugs and relations with prostitutes," Henry said. "I had unfortunately been in both positions."
She felt compelled to contact attorney Randy Johnston and volunteer information on Cortez's character. "His life isn’t a bowl of cherries and it kind of helps to know that other people see him as I do, and that’s for the real thing, not the smile and the rosy cheeks."