EDINBURG — Throughout their testimony in the Mission election contest, witnesses have repeatedly named relatives of Mayor Armando O’Caña as having allegedly participated in a scheme to illegally harvest votes. But on Thursday, a new family member was brought into the fold: O’Caña’s niece and co-counsel in the case, Patty O’Caña-Olivarez.
Ricardo “Rick” Salinas, attorney for his father, former Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas who filed the election contest to challenge the results of the June mayoral runoff, seemed to suggest that O’Caña-Olivarez was trying to intimidate some of the witnesses from testifying.
One witness, Dolores Gomez, said that O’Caña-Olivarez, who was sitting in the courtroom, came to her home and allegedly tried to dissuade her from testifying in court, saying she almost felt like she was trying to hypnotize her.
Gomez, who has mental health struggles, testified that she, her husband, her son, and her daughter-in-law were paid to vote.
The witness disclosed to O’Caña-Olivarez that she suffers from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and a condition that causes her to have multiple personalities.
When Gilberto Hinojosa, O’Caña’s attorney, cross-examined Gomez, he suggested that O’Caña-Olivarez was simply suggesting she didn’t need to go to court if she was not well.
“When you’re the other person, you don’t remember what you did as the first person right,” Hinojosa asked about her condition that causes multiple personalities.
“Correct,” Gomez responded.
“So the reason why she told you, ‘you don’t have to go,’ is because if you’re very sick to the point that you just described, then you shouldn’t have to be made to come to court involuntarily, right?” Hinojosa asked.
“Correct,” Gomez said.
However, Salinas tried to establish that she was competent enough to testify, asking her if she could see, write, and knew the difference between right and wrong. She said she could and said she was fine when taking her medication.
Another woman, Pamela Durr, said she met O’Caña-Olivarez earlier this week in the courthouse hallway. She said O’Caña-Olivarez showed her a video recording of Durr and believed she was trying to intimidate her.
Durr admitted to being addicted to cocaine and to being paid $20 to vote. They were taken in a white, Mercedes van, she said, and when they got to the polling site, a woman she identified as Guadalupe “Lupita” O’Caña, instructed them to ask for assistance to vote.
Salinas established that she had no disabilities that would preclude her from voting on her own and asked if she had been on drugs that day. She said she wasn’t.
Durr, who said she believed vote harvesters targeted people with addictions, said “a little devil” tempted her to buy cocaine with the $20 she was paid for her vote.
On cross-examination, Hinojosa said O’Caña-Olivarez showed her the video to let her know they had a copy of it.
Orlando Delgado testified that he met with O’Caña-Olivarez after he had been subpoenaed.
When Delgado insisted that it was him who reached out to her, Rick Salinas questioned why when his and other attorneys’ contact information was available at the top of the subpoena.
Delgado said he didn’t really look at the document and said a friend of his Jesus Rodriguez, a man who had been previously named as having been involved in the scheme, told him to go see O’Caña-Olivarez.
Hinojosa asked if he had seen the Salinas camp accusing people of voter fraud on social media. Delgado said he had. Hinojosa then suggested it made sense that he wouldn’t want to go to a member of the Salinas family who were making those accusations.
While Delgado was testifying, the attorneys played an audio recording of a conversation between two men. Delgado identified one man on the recording as Raul Cruz, an investigator for the Salinas legal team, but denied that the other voice on the recording was his.
Delgado said he and Cruz did not get along because of a personal dispute between them, stemming from their time working together for BlackHawk Security.
He alleged he saw Cruz talking to other witnesses about the case, a violation of the court’s rules, which Salinas said was a lie.
The attorneys argued over whether Cruz should even be allowed to testify and disputed over witnesses who had not shown up to court.
Salinas requested that Judge J. Bonner Dorsey issue a warrant for their arrests but Hinojosa argued that Salinas had their phone numbers and all he had to do was call them.
One potential witness who has not been so easy to get a hold of, according to Salinas, is Veronica O’Caña, Armando O’Caña’s niece and campaign manager who was named in previous testimony as having been involved in the alleged scheme.
Salinas alleged she and her mother, Guadalupe “Lupita” O’Caña, were hiding from their process servers to avoid being served with a subpoena.
Mayor O’Caña and O’Caña-Olivarez agreed to contact them to appear in court.
Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.