DA’s office seeks jury trial in Edinburg mayor’s voter fraud case

Richard Molina

The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday filed a motion seeking a jury trial setting for Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina, who is facing a 2019 indictment charging him with 12 counts of illegal voting and a single count of engaging in organized voter fraud.

Molina, who is seeking reelection to the position this November, has pleaded not guilty to the indictment and has denied the accusations.

The current mayor was arraigned on the indictment in July 2019.

However, by March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the Rio Grande Valley and jury trials grounded to a halt.

Molina’s trial had been set for June 1, 2020.

But at the last Board of Judges meeting, Administrative Judge Noe Gonzalez said jury panels would be summoned in late October with the aim to start jury trials again in November.

In its motion, prosecutors say the state understands the complexities and restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic placed on the judicial system, citing a delicate balance between public safety and keeping the wheels of justice moving. However, prosecutors are encouraged by the decision to resume jury trials and asks that Molina’s case be set on the jury trial docket.

“Given the nature of the charges, the position of the defendant as a public servant and the length of time this case has been pending, the State also requests the court consider setting this case as soon as practicable as the State believes there is a societal interest in providing a speedy trial,” the motion stated.

While those accused of crimes have a right to a speedy trial, the motion says that right also serves society.

“This is one of those cases,” the motion stated.

Molina’s wife, Dalia Molina, and 16 other suspects also face charges relating to alleged voter fraud during the 2017 Edinburg municipal elections.

All of the suspects have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a news release announcing the mayor’s arrest, the Texas Attorney General’s Office alleged that the mayor and his wife had numerous voters change their addresses to places where they didn’t live, including an apartment complex he owns, for the express purpose of voting for him in the 2017 municipal election.

“His vote harvesting scheme involved the participation of paid campaign workers, among others. Molina won the election, unseating long-time Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia by 1,240 votes,” the release stated.

Early voting begins Monday and Election Day is Nov. 2, with Molina facing two challengers in Ramiro Garza Jr. and Gilbert Enriquez.