EDINBURG — A judge granted the mayor here about three more months to prepare his defense after unnamed parties cooperated with the prosecution earlier this month.
Nueces County Judge Carlos Valdez agreed to delay Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina’s trial on Monday, reversing a previous order he signed last week denying the extension. The mayor is one of more than 20 individuals who’ve been accused of illegal voting in a larger voter fraud scheme going back to the November 2017 election.
In a pretrial hearing Monday morning, Valdez said he initially thought Molina’s request last week stemmed from a similar motion for continuance the mayor made in December. So, Valdez denied it.
But then the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office submitted a response last week that changed the judge’s mind.
“After the denial, I received a response from the state of Texas which made it a little clearer that we’re talking about some additional information that has been produced to the defense and has required the defense to look at it carefully,” Valdez said. “And it requires some additional time.”
Hidalgo County Chief Prosecutor Michael J. Garza said the state agreed with a short delay “in order to preserve the defendant’s rights to properly review material.”
The DA’s office wanted a 30-day extension, but the visiting judge’s schedule did not permit it.
“As I’ve told you before, I have an active docket in Nueces County and it requires a lot of juggling, and I set aside this whole week to try this case here,” Valdez said. “So, it’s going to take some additional juggling. It’s not going to take 30 days.”
Instead, he said, the mayor’s trial would likely happen sometime in late May or early June. Then the mayor’s wife, Dalia Molina, will be tried, followed by the trial of the mayor’s business associate, Julio Cesar Carranza.
“I would have preferred to have tried it today, but I understand,” the judge said about the mayor.
It’s unclear who exactly is cooperating with the DA’s office as there are more than 20 others who were allegedly involved in what the Texas Attorney General’s office has described as an organized voter fraud scheme.
Molina has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 2019, calling the investigation a political move orchestrated by his opponents.
Still, the issue must be resolved one way or another, the judge indicated.
“I think it’s very important — because of the issues involved in this case and also because of the personalities involved in this case — that this case be tried as quickly as possible. I think I made that clear in December,” he said. “The city of Edinburg deserves this case to be tried, and I think everybody also deserves to be tried. It’s not going to be resolved in any other way. So we’re going to try to move along as quickly as possible.”