While the Fresno County Board of Supervisors honored a deceased critic at its Tuesday meeting, the man allegedly responsible for his death appeared in court.
Rolando Sanchez is a member of the Del Rey Community Services District, an elected body that handles public utility issues for the small western Fresno County community. Prosecutors allege he intentionally hit and killed Jaime Loza with his car on March 16. Loza died five days later on March 21.
Initially charged with attempted murder, Sanchez now faces a murder count, with a use of a deadly weapon enhancement.
He pled not guilty at a Tuesday arraignment. He returns to court June 7 for a pre-preliminary hearing.
Sanchez’s wife and landlord attended court in support.
In the charging documents, the Fresno County District Attorney’s office said Sanchez has two other serious felony convictions — for attempted murder in 1986, and assault with a firearm in 2002.
Board Appointed Sanchez to Del Rey CSD
The Board of Supervisors appointed Sanchez to a vacancy on the Del Rey CDS board on Dec. 15, 2020. The process was routine — the name was forwarded by the county clerk’s office, who only checked to make sure Sanchez was a eligible voter in the district.
When answering a question about prior convictions on his application, Sanchez vaguely answered “2009 Fresno City Receved [sic] Probation.” He did not include anything else.
Loza spoke frequently at supervisor meetings, and in the past also spoke at Fresno City Council meetings. He often discussed law enforcement issues.
Supervisor Brian Pacheco adjourned the meeting in Loza’s memory.
“Mr. Loza was a frequent visitor to our board chambers where he expressed his views on many issues. And to be honest, his thoughts may have not always been clear, but his intentions were good. I had assumed that Mr. Loza would be a fixture in his boardroom for years to come and share his views with us. But Mr. Loza tragically passed away on March 21st. I believe it’s a reminder for all of us that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. So we need to live each day to the fullest,” Pacheco said.
Also in Politics 101 …
- Bredefeld, Chavez using new tactic in county campaign funding lawsuit.
- Expert analyzes whether the anti-SLAPP motion will work.
- Now pitching, Jerry Dyer.
Bredefeld and Chavez Using Anti-SLAPP in Campaign Finance Lawsuit
Fresno County and two Fresno City Councilmen are engaged in a legal fight over campaign fundraising. Now, the councilmen are taking a new legal tactic to win the case. The councilmen filed a motion last week, using the anti-SLAPP law, arguing that the county’s interpretation limits free speech rights.
The county is interpreting its fundraising limit of $30,000 to include transferring fund from other accounts. This would affect 2024 candidates Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez — both with six figures each in the respective city council accounts. The county sued Bredefeld and Chavez, asking a judge to interpret the law. That will be heard July 5.
Bredefeld is challenging Steve Brandau in District 2 (north Fresno and parts of Clovis); Chavez is challenging Sal Quintero in District 3 (much of southeast Fresno and surrounding communities).
The Anti-SLAPP Gambit
Anti-SLAPP, or “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” is mainly used to protect First Amendment free speech rights. The losing party would eventually have to pay the winner’s court costs.
Jeff Lewis, a Rolling Hills Estates (Los Angeles County) attorney and expert in anti-SLAPP, says using the motion to combat election law is “unprecedented in my experience.”
“This is a very creative application of the anti-SLAPP law. The key issue for the court will be whether funding of a campaign is ‘protected activity’ within the meaning of California’s anti-SLAPP law,” Lewis told Politics 101 via email. He is not affiliated in the Bredefeld-Chavez legalmatter.
Lewis says generally judges are “deferential to cities and county and how they administer laws,” but less so when election law brushes up against the First Amendment.
Bredefeld has said multiple times that the county’s plan is an unfair law that protects incumbents — existing supervisors are allowed to transfer funds from prior accounts into a new re-election account.
The Bredefeld-Chavez anti-SLAPP motion will be heard May 4 in front of Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jon Skiles.
Bredefeld engaged in one recent anti-SLAPP suit. He was successful in his motion against fellow Fresno City Councilman Nelson Esparza, when Esparza filed a defamation lawsuit. The city agreed to cover Esparza’s costs to Bredefeld, $25,000.
Dyer’s First Pitch
So what if he was a little (well, a lot) wide of the plate? At least Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer didn’t bounce the ceremonial first pitch at the Fresno Grizzlies’ home opener Tuesday night.
Dyer, resplendent in his customized #26 jersey (as the 26th mayor in Fresno history), looked better than most celebrity first pitches (I’m looking you, Travis Kelce).
The Grizzlies lost a thriller to Stockton, 5-4.
After the game, Dyer stuck around the stadium to take pictures with enthusiastic fans.
— Mayor Jerry Dyer (@MayorJerryDyer) April 12, 2023