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Motion filed to dismiss DA’s office from Edinburg mayoral voter fraud case

1 month 2 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, October 21 2021 Oct 21, 2021 October 21, 2021 5:57 PM October 21, 2021 in News - Local

The attorney for Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina filed a motion to dismiss Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez and his office from persecuting the voter fraud case against Molina.

The Wednesday motion cited several “conflicts of interest” that allegedly violate Molina’s due process rights. It comes more than a week after Rodriguez requested that Molina's voter fraud case be set on the jury trial docket. 

RELATED: Hidalgo County DA files motion for jury trial in Edinburg mayor's voter fraud case

During an Edinburg mayoral debate last week, Molina addressed the motion, speaking out about a family that "has controlled politics for about 20-plus years," and called the case against him a "political witch hunt."

In the motion filed Wednesday, Molina's attorney highlights several connections between Rodriguez and the Palacios family, stating the family held several “lucrative” positions with the city of Edinburg prior to Molina’s election as mayor.

The document claims that Mary Alice Palacios, Rodriguez’s aunt, filed a “request for investigation” with the Secretary of State regarding the alleged voter fraud. 

The motion goes on to state that prior to the November 2017 election, Palacios invited Molina – an Edinburg city councilman at the time - to lunch. She allegedly asked him to vote for the termination of the city’s contract with its health insurance agent and vote to instead hire Gilberto Gonzalez of FMBC Benefits Management to take over the city’s employee health plans.

“While Molina voted against the change, a majority of the city council under Mayor Richard Garcia voted to give the contract to Gilberto Gonzalez’s firm,” the motion stated. “Mary Alice Palacios worked as a subcontractor gaining substantial compensation under the contract.”

After winning the mayoral election, Molina and the city council terminated their contract with Gonzalez’s firm in January 2018. That same month, Palacios filed her report, which was then referred to the Attorney General’s office, according to the document.

“This is not a situation in which the defendant and prosecutor are merely from opposing political parties,” the motion read. “Here, the District Attorney’s own close family members lost positions of power and influence, and lucrative contracts, as a direct result of the election being investigated. If the prosecution were to be successful, the District Attorney’s family members stand to potentially regain their positions and contracts. Rodriguez thus has personal influences that present an intolerable potential for prejudice to Molina.”

Rodriguez on Thursday sent a statement to Channel 5 News that reads in part, “We look forward to responding and addressing the issues raised in written motion and in the courtroom."

Records indicate that Molina had a status conference hearing Thursday morning.

The voter fraud investigation stems from the results of the 2017 Edinburg city council race, when Molina was voted in as the city’s mayor.

In 2019, Molina and his wife – Dalia Molina - turned themselves in to investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety and were charged for their alleged involvement in engaging in organized election fraud.

They pleaded not guilty to charges. 

Nearly two dozen people were arrested and charged in connection with the case.

Molina’s trial was set to begin June 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July 2021, Molina announced his plans to run for re-election.

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