Trial date set for Edinburg mayor

Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina and his wife, Dalia Molina walk into the courtroom before being arraigned by (Precinct 2 Place 2) Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Jaime "Jerry" Mu–oz on Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — The mayor here is expected to stand trial in December for alleged voter fraud.

Hidalgo County Court records indicate Mayor Richard Molina’s trial is slated to begin Dec. 9, with a pretrial hearing set for Nov. 27.

Molina is accused of engaging in organized election fraud, a first-degree felony, and is facing 11 other counts of illegal voting, all second-degree felonies.

The case against the Edinburg mayor made national headlines in April, when he and his wife, Dalia Molina, turned themselves in to authorities at the Texas Department of Public Safety offices in Edinburg.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office led the investigation against the mayor. It was spurred by a former local justice of the peace who accused him of directing a number of voters to change their voter registration cards in order to become eligible to cast a ballot in the municipal races, despite not living within city limits.

Molina has denied the allegations and instead argued the charges stem from a political tug-of-war between his supporters and the political faction that previously had a stronghold on Edinburg.

One of his attorneys has gone as far as accusing Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez of “selective prosecution,” highlighting Rodriguez’s familial ties to former Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios, who essentially levied the first official accusations against Molina.

Still the AG’s investigation, which had help from Rodriguez’ office, has resulted in the arrest of 17 other people, not including the mayor and his wife. But it appears the mayor will be the first to stand trial.