Armenta Recall Effort Ends With Misdemeanor
August 24, 2011
Alisal Union School District Board president Jose Castaneda pleaded no contest this morning to a misdemeanor charge he violated election code during a ham-handed recall attempt aimed at Monterey County Supervisor Fernando Armenta.
Under the plea, Castaneda acknowledged he filed a false affidavit with the Board of Elections when he claimed he had personally served Armenta with the recall papers. Prosecutors proved Armenta was at a public meeting attended by dozens of people at the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority at the time Castaneda said he served the documents. When Castaneda then filed an amended proof of service claiming a different time of service, prosecutors were able to prove Armenta was in Fresno.
Castaneda had been charged with two felony counts each of perjury and filing a false document, each of which carried the potential for three years in jail.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers told Judge Pamela Butler that Castaneda showed "a tenuous relationship with the truth when it suits his needs" in asking for a $2,000 fine and 40-day jail sentence to be served on work-release. Defense attorney Andrew Liu countered that Castaneda's "mistake grew in proportion due to his own errors" and asked Butler to cut the sentence length and the fine in half.
Butler said she considered several letters of support Liu submitted from community members, including one from Ric Giuliano that read, in part, "…truth is the treasure of us all and its absence can damage even the most just causes." In the end, Butler went with the prosecutor's sentencing recommendation.
Liu said the plea agreement showed Castaneda’s error was minimal and made without malice. “The court recognized this for what it is, a minor mistake,” Liu said. “ He will not serve any time in jail, and looks forward to dedicating his time to bettering his community.”
Armenta could not be immediately reached for comment.
The recall drama has gripped the Alisal district since April, when Castaneda, a former Armenta ally, and a group of community leaders banded together to form a committee and submit a recall petition. The group alleged that Armenta "Engaged in conflict of interests, quid pro quo political favors, ethics violations and abuse of power,” according to the April 28 notice of intent. Its aim was to get a recall on this November's ballot.