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Defense begins its case in former Edinburg mayor’s voter fraud trial

EDINBURG — What is residency?

The question surfaced on Monday as former Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina’s attorneys began their case in his voter fraud trial.

Molina, who is charged with engaging in organized voter fraud and 11 counts of illegal voting, is on his fifth day of trial.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has repeatedly claimed the case is political retaliation for unseating Edinburg’s longtime mayor.

The question of residency surfaced when the second witness took the stand Monday.

Belinda Sagredo, a Hidalgo County Elections Department employee, acknowledged there are different factors that go into residency while being questioned by defense attorney Jaime Peña.

Numerous witnesses took the stand last week and testified that Molina pressured them to change their addresses to Edinburg so that they could vote for him in the 2017 mayoral election.

However, Sagredo agreed with Peña that residency can be a choice because some people might own multiple properties.

She also testified that the addresses on a driver’s license are not required to match an address on a voter registration form.

Asked what she would tell investigators if they were to ask her what the definition of a residence was, Sagredo testified that she would include all of the factors in the definition and not just pick and choose.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Michael Garza asked that if people said they changed their address because they were pressured to do so or that they never had any intention of living at a residence they were registered under, would the definition of residence even matter? Sagredo said it would not.

Sagredo also testified for the state last week.

The first witness of the day was Patricia Rios, an Edinburg resident who voted for Molina in 2017.

She told jurors she met Molina one day in her front yard, spoke with him and was inspired to vote for him.

Later on, Rios testified that law enforcement went to her home and started questioning her, insinuating that she had voted illegally.

Rios also said the investigators asked her if Molina bribed her. She said the former mayor did not.

She also said she felt intimidated and scared by the investigators.

Garza did not cross examine Rios.

The third witness of the day was John Waits, a sergeant investigator with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

He previously testified as the state’s last witness last week and his testimony had only just begun on Monday before the jury broke for lunch.

Written by
Berenice Garcia - The Monitor