Unless Sam Fant can give San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Carter Holley a suitable reason why he missed his last court appearance and can prove his defamation lawsuit filed against Richard Smith was justified, he could end up being sanctioned by the court and must pay a fine for bringing a “frivolous” suit.
Fant represented Weston Ranch on the Manteca Unified School board for four years before his term expired in December.
Fant, who will face trial later this month on charges of conspiracy and election fraud, must make his case to Holley on March 15 and convince him that the suit – which claims that Smith told people, including Stockton City Councilwoman Christina Fugazi, that Fant said something obscene that he claims never came out of his mouth.
But that’s where the simplicity in the case seems to end.
Smith, who used to live in Weston Ranch, was on the list of witnesses who had to testify in the preliminary hearing for Fant’s more serious felony charges – news of which was made available prior to Fant delivering the suit against him.
And now that Smith lives in Clovis, he has had to make multiple trips back and forth to Stockton – sometimes in the cab of his big rig because he didn’t have any other means of transportation – to defend himself against Fant’s suit and possibly even to testify again during the upcoming trial.
When Smith took the stand in the preliminary hearing he testified that Fant told him outright that “he didn’t care where they lived” when referring to the reports that both Alexander Bronson and Ashley Drain were using ringer addresses to qualify for the ballot to run for the Manteca Unified School District Board of Education – noting that he “needed their votes” to get things done.
Charges were ultimately filed against Bronson and Drain – the latter of which resigned immediately while Drain stood by her innocence for more than a month before finally resigning. It was disclosed during Fant’s preliminary hearing that Bronson would be a witness for the prosecution. Drain is being tried separately, and her trial begins at the end of his month as well.
The entire experience convinced Smith – who was active in Stockton politics when he lived in Weston Ranch – that the entire system is rigged against people trying to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.
“It seems me like the way things are currently set up would discourage the average voter and constituents of these elected officials against feeling like they had the freedom to tell the truth and speak out,” Smith said. “They have more power than you do even though they work for you and they seem to be able to get their way and tell you not to say anything and that you just need to shut up.
“I would do it again even though it’s the right thing to do – I had to do it for my wife and my children and to show them that I wasn’t going to back down to a bully.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.