The below press release came in yesterday from the OCDA’s office; more details from the Voice of OC afterwards:
Former Santa Ana Council Member Roman Reyna Pleads Guilty to Election Frau
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Former Santa Ana City Council Member Roman Reyna pleaded guilty today to committing election fraud for submitting nomination papers under penalty of perjury that falsely claimed he lived at a residence within Santa Ana Ward 4 in order to run for that Ward’s City Council seat in 2018. Reyna was elected to represent Ward 4 in November 2018.
Reyna pleaded guilty to one felony count of perjury and one misdemeanor count of Elections Code 18201, filing fraudulent nomination papers, as part of a plea agreement. He was ordered to pay $578,053.16 in restitution which represents the cost of the special election the City of Santa Ana had to hold to replace Reyna on the City Council. Reyna will be banned for life from holding elected office.
The guilty plea to the felony charge will be withdrawn and he will be sentenced on the misdemeanor Elections Code charge if Reyna makes progress toward completion of the terms of his probation.
Between June 2018 and October 2018 Reyna filed several official documents, including a document re-registering to vote in Ward 4, and City Council nomination papers, under penalty of perjury which stated that he resided in Ward 4. He did not reside in Ward 4 during that time period.
“Democracy exists to ensure that people have a voice in how they are governed,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Engaging in election fraud robs residents of their voice and threatens democracy.”
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Plunkett of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case. Reyna was represented by attorney Steve Baric.
From the Voice of OC:
Reyna faced a maximum of four years and 6 months in custody under the charges he pleaded to, according to court documents he signed as part of the deal. He faces no jail time under the plea agreement, as long as he doesn’t break other laws while on probation.
If Reyna completes his probation terms over the next year, the felony guilty plea will be withdrawn and he’ll be sentenced for the misdemeanor, according to prosecutors.
Reyna’s attorney said the former councilman acknowledges his mistakes and wants to move forward.
“The point of the plea was to allow Mr. Reyna to get on with his life. He’s been a servant to Santa Ana, both in a private nonprofit capacity and as a city councilman. And he plans on continuing to serve his community,” said the attorney, Steve Baric.
“I think that part of the situation, and part of the reason we are where we are today, is because district elections started in Santa Ana, and I think that there was some confusion. But I do believe that Mr. Reyna admits that he made several mistakes along the way and he’s willing to take responsibility.”
It’s unclear how much of the restitution Reyna will end up paying.
“I think everybody knows the probability of him paying that amount of restitution is probably very unlikely,” Spitzer said, adding that probation officials will determine what his ability is to pay.
The suit was filed by Phil Bacerra, who was Reyna’s sole opponent in last year’s Ward 4 election, and his attorney, Mark Rosen.
Reyna’s council run last year was supported by $320,000 in money from undisclosed sources – known as dark money. State authorities with the Fair Political Practices Commission have an ongoing investigation into whether that violated campaign finance laws.
This is a tough one. I like Roman and I’m sorry it came to this. And what he ought to do now is start outing those who put so much dark money into his campaign because they are just as guilty as he is of placing Santa Ana taxpayers in this situation.