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Two judges pass on Fants hearing request
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STOCKTON – It looks like Manteca Unified trustee Sam Fant will have to do without the insight of a grand juror when it comes to making his case that the San Joaquin District Attorney’s office isn’t fit to handle his prosecution on election fraud and conspiracy charges.
After Judge George Abdallah recused himself from the matter – Abdallah is one of three advisors to the Civil Grand Jury – the case was picked up by Assistant Presiding Judge Linda Lofthus on Monday, who referred the matter to another judge who won’t be able to hear the case until Oct. 3. Although no reason was given for passing on hearing the case, the judge’s sister Susan Lofthus is on the Stockton City Council.
Fant’s attorney is expected to make her case against the DA’s office on Sept. 29 in the court of judge Brett Morgan – alleging that because of Fant’s previous involvement with the district attorney’s office and the political ramifications of the case, the California Attorney General’s office should be the one who, if they deem it’s necessary, prosecute the matter in superior court.
Fant, who is running for Stockton City Council to represent Weston Ranch and a large portion of South Stockton, is being charged with two counts of election fraud and two counts of conspiracy for his alleged involvement in the cases of former Manteca Unified Trustees Alexander Bronson and Ashley Drain – both of whom resigned from the board after being formally charged for allegedly using false addresses to qualify for the ballot in November of 2014.
According to the District Attorney’s office, information that implicated Fant surfaced during court proceedings of the other two former board members, and with that information the decision to charge Fant was made.
His attorney, Yolonda Huang, was trying to make the case to the court that the San Joaquin Civil Grand Jury report that was written about Fant and Drain and their actions on the Manteca Unified School Board shows proof of bias on behalf of the office, and was attempting to gather insight from one of the grand jurors who participated in that process.
In her complaint that was written to Abdallah, Huang alleged that Fant’s previous run-in with Assistant District Attorney Scott Fichtner – who served as the DA’s advisor to the grand jury – should have precluded his involvement with the report.
Two prominent members of Stockton’s black community – Ralph White of the Stockton Black Leadership Coalition and Bobby Bivens of the Stockton chapter of the NAACP – have written the court alleging that the report had a racial underpinning to it.
Fant’s charges, including the one that he’s being prosecuted politically as a way to deter him from running from the Stockton City Council, have been dismissed as “bald-faced assertions” by Robert Himelblau of the DA’s office – who will, along with case prosecutor Stephen Mayer, be joined by a representative from the California Attorney General’s office on Sept. 29 to defend the DA’s standing in the case.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.