Discrimination alleged in potential conflict of interest case involving Supervisor Leticia Perez

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Attorneys representing 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez appeared before a judge Friday to address a motion claiming discrimination in her case involving a potential conflict of interest surrounding a 2017 vote at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

H.A. Sala, one of Perez’s defense attorneys, filed a motion Thursday claiming Perez is facing discrimination by the judicial system. In the motion, Sala argued that former district attorney Lisa Green took on the case against Perez, but did not take on similar cases involving non-Hispanic politicians.

Last July, Perez was charged with two misdemeanor counts of conflict of interest for casting a vote in October 2017 to allow the marijuana industry into Kern’s unincorporated areas. Perez’s husband, Fernando Jara, was accused of being actively involved in consulting and lobbying for marijuana interests leading up to that vote. Perez has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Also Friday, Judge Thomas Clark lifted a gag order on T.J. Esposito, one of the witnesses in Perez’s case. Esposito is now free to speak publicly about that case. Friday’s judgment came after students from the UC Irvine School of Law went before the judge on Esposito’s behalf.

“A district attorney from [former District Attorney Lisa] Green’s office wrote a declaration saying we’re going to subpoena him as a witness because he was one of our investigators. Well there was never an interview,” Esposito, the editor of the independent news source “Valley Voice” Facebook page, said. 
Esposito is a former mayoral candidate and outspoken supporter of cannabis. 

“So right when they put that in, the judge signed it, and I was under gag,” he continued. “It’s a real shame that it happened, but I’m grateful that a judge found in our favor, and I’m very grateful that a team from UC Irvine represented me pro bono to clear this up and to fight for all of our first amendment rights.”

UCI law student, Cassie Doutt, said she was content with the judge’s decision.

“We are happy with the relief given today because it allows him to continue with his job and duty to inform the people.”

Prosecutors and Perez’s defense team are scheduled to appear before a judge on February 22. Former District Attorney Lisa Green is set to appear in court then as a witness.

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