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Willie Gandara Sr. pleads not guilty to new public corruption charge [El Paso Times, Texas]

Feb. 12-- Previous story by Evan Mohl. Former Socorro mayor and Socorro Independent School board trustee Willie Gandara Sr. has formally pleaded not guilty to a new charge in the public corruption case against him, while a federal judge delayed his trial date until this summer. However, his attorneys Jim Darnell and Joseph Vasquez filed a waiver of appearance on...

By Adriana M. Chavez, El Paso Times, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 12--Previous story by Evan Mohl

Former Socorro mayor and Socorro Independent School board trustee Willie Gandara Sr. has formally pleaded not guilty to a new charge in the public corruption case against him, while a federal judge delayed his trial date until this summer.

Federal court records show Gandara had been scheduled to appear at an arraignment hearing in federal court Thursday. However, his attorneys Jim Darnell and Joseph Vasquez filed a waiver of appearance on Monday. In the waiver, the attorneys stated Gandara is pleading not guilty.

In

a superseding indictment filed last week, federal prosecutors allege that Gandara aided and abetted mail fraud, wire fraud and the deprivation of honest services when he was an SISD trustee in 2006.

Gandara is accused of accepting a $1,000 bribe to support the school district's contract with a health insurance provider, Access HealthSource.

Gandara was already charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and deprivation of honest services in the same scheme. Gandara was indicted in 2010 along with 10 others, all of whom have already pleaded guilty and face sentencing later this month.

Prosecutors also added allegations that Gandara violated his oath as an SISD trustee, and Bob Jones, who was convicted of

several public corruption charges and is currently serving a 10-year sentence at La Tuna federal prison, was named a co-conspirator in the superseding indictment.

Gandara's jury trial, which was scheduled to begin in late March, was also rescheduled Monday. It will begin with jury selection on July 22 before U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo.

The trial was originally set for last September, but it was delayed when federal prosecutors successfully filed a motion to disqualify defense lawyer Joe Spencer, who represented Gandara's son Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr. in a drug-trafficking case.

Adriana M. Chavez may be reached at achavez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6117. Follow her on Twitter @AChavezEPTimes

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