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Ex-MUSD trustee seeks new trial

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POSTED January 13, 2018 1:29 a.m.

The former Manteca Unified School District trustee convicted of election and welfare fraud will find out this month whether she’ll get a new trial.
Ashley Drain, who was elected to the Manteca Unified Board of Education in 2014 but resigned almost nine months after being charged as a recall effort was formally started –  is scheduled to appear before Judge Charlotte Orcutt on Monday, Jan. 22, at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 33 at the new San Joaquin County Courthouse in Downtown Stockton.
It was Orcutt that oversaw the trial that ended in her conviction on all counts last April. Orcutt that made the decision to dismiss the juror that was leaving the jury deadlocked at 11-1 in order to help bring about a verdict.
And that decision – to dismiss the only black juror, and somebody that was unwilling to move forward with a conviction – forms the basis of the grounds of Drain’s new legal strategy to push for her conviction to be tossed out and stand trial again.
Drain’s court-appointed attorney, Russell Humphrey, was appointed to represent her just after she was convicted. She has had multiple attorneys represent her during the proceedings that have taken almost two-and-a-half years at this point and still haven’t been formally resolved.
If her motion for a new trial is not granted, Drain will likely be sentenced based on her conviction, and she’ll then get the opportunity to begin the appeal process if she so chooses.
Drain’s case is the last of the three related to the Manteca Unified election of 2014 that has yet to be formally resolved – with Alexander Bronson, who was elected alongside Drain, resigning almost immediately and striking a plea deal right away with prosecutors.
Sam Fant, who was charged with election fraud and conspiracy for his role in organizing the effort to put Bronson and Drain on the school board despite the fact neither lived in the appropriate area, eventually pled no contest to a felony charge that he will be eligible to request expungement for once he is off of probation.
But Drain, who is on her ninth attorney in the case, has refused plea deals that have been offered to her by prosecutors and maintained her innocence throughout the process. When Fant petitioned to have his case thrown out citing racial bias on behalf of the District Attorney’s office – using exchanges that date back to his interactions with the grand jury while on the school board – Drain followed suit and made a similar motion and appealed to have the State of California intervene on her behalf. Both motions were denied.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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