State rests its case against former Edinburg mayor 

Defense to begin arguments Friday

Richard Molina listens to defense attorney Carlos A. Garcia question investigator John Waits of the Texas Attorney General's Office during his voter fraud trial in the 92nd state District Court at the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

EDINBURG — After two-and-a-half days of testimony, the state rested its case against former Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina, who’s on trial for organized voter fraud and illegal voting.

State Prosecutor Michael Garza announced the state was done presenting its case Thursday afternoon after the jury heard testimony from John Waits, a sergeant investigator with the Texas Attorney General’s Office who led the investigation into the 2017 Edinburg mayoral election on behalf of the AG’s office.

During questioning from the state, Waits explained how the investigation began, which he said was through a complaint that was filed to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office by Mary Alice Palacios, a former Hidalgo County justice of the peace with ties to the city and the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. That complaint was then referred to the AG’s office.

Waits then spoke about how he investigated the claims made in the complaint and then, using a chart that included the names of the people involved in the alleged scheme, explained how he determined how each person was involved — whether they allegedly voted illegally, helped someone register to vote with an address that wasn’t theirs, or encouraged someone to register to vote with an address that wasn’t theirs.

He said approximately 40 people were involved in the alleged scheme and were either directly or indirectly connected to Molina.

When asked who were the leaders of the alleged conspiracy, Waits said said Molina, his wife Dalia Molina, and Molina’s former business partner Julio Carranza.

On cross-examination, Carlos A. Garcia, one of Molina’s attorneys, asked Waits about his conversations with Palacios.

Palacios was at the center of the defense team’s attempt to disqualify the district attorney’s office from the case because Palacios is the aunt of District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez. The defense has also accused Palacios of having a personal vendetta against Molina because he voted to terminate an insurance contract she had with the city.

Visiting Judge Carlos Valdez allowed the district attorney’s office to stay on the case, but during Thursday’s testimony, the defense continued to raise the issue of Palacios’ alleged bias.

Garcia asked Waits if he asked Palacios about her motives and bias in the case and Waits said he did not.

He later asked Waits if he knew that seven people were allegedly registered to vote at Palacios’ residence during the same election, to which Waits said he did not investigate her.

During his cross-examination, Garcia also alleged that the people who were called to testify, who admitted to voting illegally, were called specifically because they aligned with Waits’ narrative and those that weren’t called didn’t “match your story.”

“It’s not my story,” Waits said. “It’s what the facts support.”

Earlier in the day, the jury heard from Carranza, Molina’s former business partner, who testified that he encouraged his employees to change their addresses to Edinburg residences so they could vote for him.

Carranza, who is charged with a count of engaging in organized voter fraud and two counts of illegal voting, previously owned Landmark Mortgage and Citywide Home Loans.

He said in 2016 Molina encouraged him to register to vote in Edinburg even though he lived in Pharr at the time, in case Molina ran for office.

Defense attorney Carlos A. Perez questions investigator John Waits of the Texas Attorney General’s Office during the trial of former Edinburg mayor Richard Molina in the 92nd state District Court at the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

When the prosecution questioned Carranza about lying about his address, Carranza said Molina allegedly told him not to worry about it.

Though he changed his address at Molina’s alleged behest, Carranza said he didn’t end up voting under that registration but later encouraged employees from his business to lie about their addresses on their registration cards so they could vote in the 2017 mayoral election.

Three of Carranza’s employees testified on Wednesday. Two said Carranza asked them to change their address, while one testified that Molina was the one who encouraged him. Carranza corroborated those statements.

During cross examination, Garcia asked Carranza whether he would have committed a crime at Molina’s request.

“What level?” Carranza said. “Yes, that’s how much I trusted him.”

Asked whether he would commit a beer run, rob a store, or steal some cattle for Molina, Carranza said no, prompting Garcia to ask what kind of crime he would commit.

Carranza said voter fraud.

Garcia then asked if Molina actually told him that voter fraud was a crime, and Carranza clarified that he asked Molina if what they were doing was a crime.

“And what was his response?” Garcia asked.

“You’re not going to get caught. Everybody does it,” Carranza said.

Molina’s defense team will begin making their case when the trial resumes Friday morning.

To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Joel Martinez’s full photo gallery from Day 3 of Richard Molina’s trial here:

Photo Gallery: Day 3 of Richard Molina trial


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