Nativo Lopez Headed to Trial After Incident

Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register, March 26, 2010

Immigrant-rights activist and former Santa Ana schools trustee Nativo Lopez was cleared today to face trial after a mental competency hearing–but proceedings were interrupted when Lopez refused to identify himself to the court, and was sent to jail.

Lopez faces voter fraud charges that he registered to vote in Los Angeles while living in Santa Ana. {snip}

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Lopez is national president of Mexican American Political Association and national director of Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, both of which are advocates for immigrant rights. {snip}

The charges against him were filed after Bowen’s office investigated a tip and turned the matter over to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to prosecute. The office where he was registered to vote was the Boyle Heights branch of Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, according to Bowen.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters said Lopez had been registered to vote in Santa Ana until January 2008, when he cancelled his Orange County registration.

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The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office had been seeking bail of $55,000, said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. Arraignment–when Lopez will state whether he is guilty or not guilty–was set for July 8.

In 1996, Lopez attracted controversy for registering new citizens in the congressional district where Democrat Loretta Sanchez upset incumbent Bob Dornan.

A congressional investigation later found that some voters had cast ballots before their citizenship was finalized. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigated allegations that Lopez’s primary organization, then known as Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, was responsible for the improper registrations but no charges were filed.

Lopez also ran into difficulties in 2002 over hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding received by Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, whose services included citizenship training and English lessons. Prosecutors alleged that Lopez had wrongly used the education grants to pay the mortgage on his headquarters in Santa Ana.

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