Supervisor Perez pleads not guilty to charges, defense attorney welcomes trial

News

Facing two misdemeanors, Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to both charges.

Her criminal defense attorney says he welcomes a court battle.

Supervisor Perez’s attorney H.A. Sala told 17 News Wednesday there will be no plea deal coming in this case, and only a dismissal of all charges or an acquittal in trial is acceptable.

“To say that the supervisor has committed a crime is preposterous. absolutely preposterous,” said Sala. 

So as the dust settles, what do we know?

A probable cause statement from the District Attorney’s Office explicitly accuses Perez of a conflict of interest when she voted in October to allow the marijuana industry into Kern’s unincorporated parts.

While District Attorney Lisa Green would not provide details, court documents assert Perez’s husband Fernando Jara profited from his marijuana work in Kern ahead of the vote.

And there are still many questions.

First, County Counsel Mark Nations told 17 News in January he looked into a potential conflict with Jara’s business at Perez’s request. 

“None of his activities pertained as I understood it to anything in Kern County,” Nations said then. 

Nations told us Wednesday he does not know what evidence the DA is relying on and cannot comment further.

Then there’s the case of Bakersfield City Councilmember Bob Smith who admitted to a conflict of interest in 2016 but was only fined.

“A Caucasian male, who is politically popular, was not prosecuted criminally for the same charge that Supervisor Perez is being accused of violating. What does that tell you?” asked Sala at a press conference Tuesday.

“I don’t know that that case was referred to our office,” said Green when asked Tuesday about the Smith case. 

But a letter from the FPPC obtained by 17 News shows Green’s office was notified.

Green responded over the phone Wednesday saying she assumes the letter came to the office, but does not recall seeing it.

Green added she has not discussed filing charges against Councilmember Smith. 

Something to look ahead to?

Supervisor Perez has missed the last three supervisor meetings, but next week, Kern’s all important budget is on the table, with a special meeting being held Monday.

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