It’ll be another month before Ashley Drain finds out whether she’ll get a new trial.
The former Manteca Unified trustee, who was convicted of election fraud and four counts of welfare fraud in April of last year, was set to appear in San Joaquin County Superior Court on Monday after four delays in her request for a new trial had pushed the fate of her conviction back for months.
But after the court reporter tasked with completing all of the necessary transcripts from the trial and previous proceedings retired – the last delay in her appearance was so that clerk could finish the transcripts – the new reporter assigned the case needs more time to get everything prepared.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office is requesting that the judge sentence her to two years in state prison as well as more than four years of supervised probation upon her release.
But a debacle during deliberations has opened the door for the outspoken South Stockton resident – who has already unsuccessfully fought to have the San Joaquin County DA thrown off the case citing racial bias – to try and get the case retried.
The only black juror assigned to the case, Jennet Stebbins, was dismissed after the jury foreperson approached Judge Charlotte Orcutt and informed her that an 11-1 deadlock that was due in part to Stebbins’ refusal to participate in the deliberation process. A straw poll taken by the jury showed that she was the lone holdout in convicting Drain of all counts, and in comments made to the Stockton Record, Stebbins admitted that she didn’t “have to” go back and reread the testimony of the case to arrive at her decision.
In a strange twist, Stebbins – who didn’t use that last name when being selected for the jury, was known at the time for being a Delta College Trustee and a former Stockton Unified School District board member.
Drain was accused of using a false address to qualify for the ballot in order to run for a seat on the Manteca Unified School District Board of Education. The fraud was discovered after an investigation was launched into suspected welfare fraud, eventually leading to charges that she intentionally misrepresented the number of people in her household for nearly a year to qualify for benefits. Both she and Alexander Bronson, who were charged at the same time for election fraud, used the same incorrect address on their nomination paperwork, and information that came to light during Bronson’s early court proceedings ultimately led to election fraud and conspiracy charges for former Manteca Unified Trustee Sam Fant – who unlike those he reportedly recruited to help line-up votes on the board, finished his term representing Weston Ranch on the Manteca board.
Fant reached a plea deal with prosecutors where he would plead no contest to a felony violation of the California Elections Code in exchange for all other charges being dropped. He was sentenced to 120 days in the San Joaquin County Jail – with the stipulation that he be eligible for work-release programs – as well as five years of probation.
According to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office, the same plea deal that Bronson accepted almost immediately was also offered to Drain, but she refused and requested to take the matter to trial.
Her previous attorney, Heath Wilding, had his motion for a mistrial denied by Orcutt. She is now represented in her bid for a new trial by Russell Humphrey – bringing the number of attorneys that have represented her or filed on her behalf to nearly a dozen.
She is set to appear before Orcutt in Department 33 of the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Downtown Stockton at 10 a.m. on Feb. 26.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.