STOCKTON – Sam Fant – who after next month will no longer be a member of the Manteca Unified School Board – will stand trial for felony election fraud charges stemming from an alleged “hostile takeover” of the school board.
On Tuesday San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Seth Hoyt ruled that there was sufficient evidence for Fant, a former Stockton Planning Commissioner who was elected to represent Weston Ranch on the Manteca Unified School Board in 2012, to answer for the charges that were levied against him by the District Attorney’s office earlier this year.
And there was a bombshell dropped during the proceedings.
Alexander Bronson, who was charged with election fraud in May of 2015, told an investigator from the District Attorney’s office that Fant had recruited him to run for the Manteca Unified School Board.
DA investigator Robert Faine testified that according to Bronson, Fant had told him to change his Facebook status update to show him living in Manteca, and a bank account with a Manteca address was set up at Wells Fargo branch – although no money was ever deposited.
Bronson accepted a plea deal from the district attorney’s office, and is expected to be sentenced soon. Fant characterized him as a “witness for the prosecution” but declined to elaborate further.
Bronson referred to Fant’s intentions as “planning a hostile takeover of the school board” after he became frustrated that he wasn’t able to do the things that he had hoped for in the first two years of his term, according to The Record.
According to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office – who has battled claims that Fant is being politically prosecuted to thwart his attempt at earning a seat on the Stockton City Council – the decision to charge Fant didn’t come until after the proceedings against Bronson and Ashley Drain, who was also charged with election fraud and welfare fraud for reportedly using a false address to meet residency requirements for the district, had begun and addition information surfaced in court.
Last month Assistant District Attorney Robert Himelblau successfully argued against a motion from Fant’s attorney Yolonda Huang that would have called in the California Attorney General’s office to take over the case – citing bias on behalf of the District Attorney’s office that stemmed from a report of the Grand Jury against Fant. That motion, as well as one that would have excused a grand juror from her confidentiality agreement so she could testify on behalf of Fant, were denied by separate judges.
And there was some fallout on Tuesday from some of the testimony from the previous preliminary hearing proceedings – where former Fant mentor Dale Fritchen claimed that Fant had told him that he had filled out the paperwork for both Drain and Bronson.
On Tuesday representatives from the San Joaquin Registrar of Voter’s office testified that the two candidates filled out their paperwork themselves, prompting Huang to accuse Fritchen of perjuring himself with his previous testimony.
Fant won’t appear before a judge to enter in a plea to the charges he’s facing until he’s formally arraigned on Nov. 14 – almost a week after voters citywide will decide between Fant and Jesus Andrade to occupy the South Stockton City Council seat that was previously held by Michael Tubbs, who defeated Fritchen after his first term to earn a seat on the council.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.