Controversial Escondido Union School District trustee Jose Fragozo, 51, pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of voter fraud just minutes before his trial on 13 felony counts was set to begin.
He had been charged with fraud for allegedly living in one region of the school district but running for a different region four years ago. Other charges were perjury, false voter registration and filing false election documents. If convicted,
Fragozo faced nearly a decade in prison.
Because he pleaded guilty to voter fraud Fragozo is required by law to vacate his seat on the school board and may not run for reelection this November or again for three years. But that may be the extent of his punishment.
Fragozo did not comment after the plea bargain was announced and his attorney said he would reserve comment until after sentencing on September 28. By the terms of his deal with the District Attorney’s office Fragozo faces three years in jail, but the judge in the case says he will consider reducing the charge to a misdemeanor for voting in November 2014 while registered at an address where he wasn’t living. If the charge is reduced, Fragozo might be able to run for office again soon.
Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said the plea would serve the purpose of removing Fragozo from falsely representing voters in Region 1, where he doesn’t live, without ruining the rest of his life.
Fragozo’s term on the school board was storm-tossed from the beginning, and he was fighting the complaint about his residency from the get-go, when he first ran for the Region 1 seat in 2012.
His fellow board members and Escondido elementary district Superintendent Luis Ibarra last year obtained a temporary restraining order against him, after alleging that he was verbally abusive.
Superintendent Luis A Ibarra had said that he feared for his life after being confronted by Fragozo. Fragozo has claimed that the source of the trouble between himself and fellow trustees was his championing of the rights of Hispanic students.
Fragozo was a maverick on the school board who opposed charter schools and lobbies for better education for children after a study last year found the district wanting in meeting educational goals.
While the restraining order was in effect, Fragozo was unable to attend board meetings, except via phone. Later he was allowed to return to the board, only to have the charges of voter fraud surface again.