Crime

Jury trial set for Merced County supervisor charged with battery

Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, 50, appears before Judge Steven Slocum during a pre-trial conference at the Merced County Superior Courthouse in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Espinoza has been accused of inappropriately trying to kiss, hold hands with and smell the hair of a woman he met with in April to discuss county business, according to Merced Police Department investigators. Espinoza was charged in July with one count of misdemeanor battery.
Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, 50, appears before Judge Steven Slocum during a pre-trial conference at the Merced County Superior Courthouse in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Espinoza has been accused of inappropriately trying to kiss, hold hands with and smell the hair of a woman he met with in April to discuss county business, according to Merced Police Department investigators. Espinoza was charged in July with one count of misdemeanor battery. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

The Merced County supervisor charged with a crime related to the unwanted touching of a woman is set to go to a jury trial next month.

Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza’s attorney and prosecutors waived any pre-trial hearings on Monday and set a jury trial for Nov. 27. Espinoza has pleaded not guilty to a single count of battery.

A woman who was looking for the elected official’s support related to issues with undocumented immigrants told police Espinoza held her hands without consent, tried to kiss her and, when she turned her face away from him, smelled her hair.

Prosecutors have not offered Espinoza a plea deal, according to his attorney, John Garcia.

The 50-year-old married father met the woman at her office in Merced about 5 p.m. April 27, according to investigators. They were alone sitting near a computer screen.

The woman had requested meetings because she was an advocate for health care for undocumented immigrants. They had met alone in the past, according to investigators.

As she faced the computer screen and discussed the county’s budget, Espinoza began touching her hands and moving in closer, the report said. She repeatedly told him to stop and that she felt uncomfortable, but he continued to move in closer while trying to kiss her and touching her face, the police report says.

Espinoza won his seat on the board in 2016. Before that, Espinoza had been mayor of Livingston since 2010.

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