Updated 6:05 p.m.
One week after being charged with illegal voting and organized election fraud, Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina issued a statement Thursday denying the allegations against him.
“Fellow citizens, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk to you about the State’s decision to arrest my wife and I on allegations of voter fraud,” Molina said in the statement.
His wife, Dalia Molina, was also charged with one count of illegal voting on April 18, the same day the couple surrendered themselves at a Texas Department of Public Safety office in Edinburg. The two were then taken in handcuffs to Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jerry Muñoz’s courtroom in Pharr, where they were arraigned.
The charges stem from the November 2017 city election, in which Molina unseated longtime Mayor Richard Garcia by 1,240 votes.
In a statement released the day of the Molinas’ arrest, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused the mayor of orchestrating an “organized illegal voting scheme in his own mayoral election.”
“Molina and his wife had numerous voters change their addresses to places they didn’t live — including the apartment complex he owns — for the express purpose of voting for Molina in the November 7, 2017, Edinburg municipal election,” Paxton said, adding that the scheme involved the use of paid campaign workers.
Paxton referred to the alleged scheme as “vote harvesting” — language that mirrors a new bipartisan election fraud law passed by the 85th Legislature, and which went into effect in Sept. 1, 2017, just weeks before Molina won the election that vaulted him into the seat of mayor.
The new legislation makes vote harvesting a first-degree felony, punishable by 5 to 99 years, or life, in prison if convicted.
“We respectfully deny any criminal wrongdoing and look forward to defending ourselves in the proper venue; that is a courtroom,” Molina said in Thursday’s statement. “These charges will not affect my ability to perform the people’s work as your Mayor. I only ask that you respect our constitutional right to a fair trial and due process. Thank you.”
His statement comes one day after an Edinburg resident, Robert Solis, delivered an affidavit seeking Molina’s resignation at city hall Wednesday afternoon.
Molina’s statement — submitted both in writing and in a video featuring the mayor — was emailed by Edinburg Director of Communications and Media Cary Zayas from her official city email.
Zayas herself came under scrutiny during the April 18 arraignment proceedings for physically blocking members of the media from photographing the Molinas while handcuffed in DPS troopers’ units. And at city hall Wednesday, Zayas said the mayor had not asked her to speak on his behalf.
The mayor has long asserted that the allegations against him and his wife are the work of the Palacios family, one of Edinburg’s most prominent political families. In a similar video released last May, Molina alleged that various members of the Palacios family had committed actions similar to those for which he now stands charged.
It was former Hidalgo County Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios who filed the complaint against Molina to the Secretary of State’s Office in December 2017, which sparked the AG’s investigation.
To date, 18 people have been charged in connection with the scheme, including one man, Gregorio Lopez Alaniz, 54, who was arrested by the AG’s office the day before the Molinas turned themselves into authorities.