EDINBURG — The voter fraud case against former Edinburg mayor Richard Molina is now in the hands of a jury of his peers.
Prosecutor Michael Garza and defense attorneys Carlos A. Garcia and Jaime Peña finished their closing arguments just before 5 p.m. Wednesday on the seventh day of the trial against the former elected official.
Molina is charged with one count of engaging in organized voter fraud and 11 counts of illegal voting.
The former mayor, who took the stand in his own defense, told jurors he believed residency was a choice based on his training as a voter registrar, the research he conducted by reading legal opinions and by looking through the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
He told jurors he believed it was perfectly legal for people to change their residence to Edinburg to vote for him as long as they did not vote in more than one election.
The former mayor also alleged this practice is common and it only became a problem once he was elected mayor.
Molina also said that had he known it was illegal, he would have never asked people to do so.
The state, however, alleges Molina participated in an organized conspiracy with his wife, Dalia Molina, and his former business partner, Julio Carranza, to solicit people to change their residency to Edinburg to vote for him even though they never had any actual intention of living there.
Both Dalia and Carranza are facing engaging in organized voter fraud charges as well.
While Dalia has been at her husband’s side every day of the trial, Carranza took the stand last week to testify against his former business partner.
Multiple witnesses took the stand for the state last week and said Molina convinced them to change their residency to Edinburg to vote for him.
During Carranza’s testimony, he told jurors that the one-time mayor asked him to encourage his employees to change their addresses to Edinburg so they could vote for him.
Carranza told jurors that he asked Molina if what they were doing was illegal, to which Molina replied: “You’re not going to get caught. Everybody does it.”
Multiple people employed by Carranza testified last week that they voted illegally for Molina.
The former mayor has claimed since his arrest that the entire prosecution is political retaliation for unseating the city’s longtime mayor.
In the run up to the trial, Garcia, the defense attorney, sought to remove Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr.’s office from prosecuting the case because the DA’s aunt, Mary Alice Palacios, was the one who filed the initial complaint against Molina with the Secretary of State’s Office, and that ultimately led to this trial.
Molina has alleged that Palacios had an axe to grind against him because he voted to end a lucrative insurance contract with the city, which she denied during a previous court hearing prior to the trial.
As of 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, jurors were deciding whether to deliberate into the afternoon or to come back Thursday to decide Molina’s guilt or innocence on the 12-count indictment.
Jurors were dismissed for the day shortly before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
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