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Fragozo enters not guilty plea

VISTA — Embattled Escondido Union School District Trustee Jose Fragozo appeared Wednesday in Superior Court to plead not guilty to 13 felony charges.

Judge Carlos Armour also set a pretrial hearing for June 22 and the trial for Aug. 1.

Fragozo’s attorney, Victor Torres, told the court his client denies all allegations the first-term trustee misrepresented his place of residence to get elected in District 1.

He was bound over to Superior Court after a preliminary hearing earlier this month. Several witnesses were called including Sterling Hammond, an investigator for the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Hammond detailed his investigation, which did not being in earnest until April 2015. He said the office received a complaint against Fragozo in November 2012 after the election.

Hammond was given the case file in January 2013; although he said his supervisor said at the time it was not a “priority.” After he worked his way through other cases, Hammond came to Fragozo’s case and investigated the claims of his residency at an apartment on Maple Street in Escondido’s District 1.

However, Fragozo’s driver’s license, vehicle registration and homeowner’s tax exemptions all listed an address on Crooked Oak Lane.

Deputy District Attorney Leon Shore questioned Hammond on the legitimacy of the two residences. Hammond said for election purposes, only one “domicile” can be used to register to vote and run as a candidate.

Hammond said he spoke with Fragozo in April 2015 and questioned him about the two homes. In previous media reports, Fragozo said he lived in the apartment with his wife.

He was vindicated last month in another legal battle when the court threw out an attempt by the school district to instate a permanent restraining order. The district filed the order last year citing bullying and intimidation by Fragozo.

Fragozo, though, said he was happy to be back in the mix, although he still feels slighted by the actions of district administrators.

“My specific focus on accountability has obviously rankled the other board members and administrators,” he said last month. “Administrators must be held responsible for the decisions they make. Our job as trustees is to ask hard questions about programs and spending and ensure that all perspectives are included in our discussions. We are not here to make self-serving statements, pat ourselves on the back, or sit mutely by when immense issues face us. Exactly how much did this failed legal action against me cost the taxpayers?”