Immigrant-rights activist and former Santa Ana schools trustee Nativo Lopez was jailed in Los Angeles Thursday after being indicted by the grand jury there for eight felony counts alleging voter fraud
And therein lies a tangled tale.
In about 2003 I was a member of Green Party of Los Angeles County Council and also the treasurer. Someone produced a copy of a $10,000 check that another council member, Mike Feinstein, had deposited into his personal account. I filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission as I was legally obligated to do and also filed a complaint with Santa Monica Police Department. After long investigations, no charges were filed but the publicity probably caused Feinstein to lose his seat on Santa Monica City Council. (As it turned out Feinstein had spent the money completely on Green Party affairs.)
However, this had a devastating effect on the L.A. Green Party, the California Green Party, and had nationwide repercussions within the party as well. My filing of the complaints was at least a major triggering factor for infighting that was savage, psychotic,and literally went on for years. (I took no part in any of it and soon left the GP.)
Nativo Lopez, I’m told, was on the other side of the infighting of which Feinstein was a central figure. Lopez ran and was elected to GPLACC in 2008, probably to oppose Feinstein.
But Lopez wasn’t a resident of Los Angeles County. Oopsie.
On June 25, 2009, Lopez was charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office with four felonies: fraudulent voter registration, fraudulent document filing, perjury and fraudulent voting. Lopez allegedly leased office space in Boyle Heights and registered to vote using that address although he lived with his family in Orange County. It is further alleged that Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Assn., cast an illegal ballot in L.A. in the 2008 presidential primary. If convicted, Lopez could serve up to three years in prison.
After numerous attempts to set his preliminary hearing date during Los Angeles Superior Court hearings from February to May 2010 were postponed by Nativo Lopez’s refusal to identify himself, including in Dept. 95, Mental Competency Court.
His daughter says in a highly emotional press release (PDF) that “the multiple felony charges of electoral fraud are an over-reach by an extremely politically ambitious Republican District Attorney, Steve Cooley” and that her father is starting a hunger strike while in jail. He is also apparently continuing to refuse to identify himself in court, which isn’t exactly known as a way to get a judge on your side.
Did Lopez probably do something stupid? Yes. But the number of felonies he’s facing seem way disproportionate to what he allegedly did. So something else must be going on too.