Judge tosses out lawsuit; Presas-Garcia on city ballot

March 23, 2019

A visiting judge on Friday afternoon tossed a lawsuit brought by District 2 City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa against one of her challengers in the May 4 municipal election.

Tetreau-Kalifa sued opponent Catalina Presas-Garcia on Feb. 22, alleging that Presas-Garcia committed voter fraud by signing an affidavit stating she had collected signatures when in fact other individuals collected those signatures on her behalf.

Visiting Judge Robert Pate ruled after hearing testimony from several individuals who collected the signatures that the intent of the people who signed the ballot was to support Presas-Garcia’s place on the ballot, denying Tetreau-Kalifa’s request for a temporary injunction keeping Presas-Garcia off of the ballot.

“I am very pleased with the outcome,” Presas-Garcia said after the ruling. “Thank God the judicial system believes in the rights of the voters.”

Presas-Garcia said its right that voters decide who represents District 2.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the voters and let’s not tarnish the rights of the citizens,” Presas-Garcia said.

Tetreau-Kalifa said after the ruling that she felt evidence presented during the hearing showed possible voter fraud.

“I feel like it’s unfortunate that possible election fraud will affect the City of Brownsville’s elections,” Tetreau-Kalifa said in reaction to the ruling.

Tetreau-Kalifa cited testimony from Irma Briggs, who told the court that she didn’t know that she was signing a petition to place Presas-Garcia on the ballot and that she signed her husband’s name on the petition as well.

“To me, the most important thing is it wasn’t personal,” Tetreau-Kalifa said. “She never bothered me as a candidate. What bothered me was the way she got there.”

During the hearing, seven residents of a Brownsville subdivision testified, most of who told the court that Presas-Garcia wasn’t present when they signed the petition, but that they did support her petition for a place on the ballot.

Tetreau-Kalifa’s attorney, Rick Zayas, also called Presas-Garcia to the stand, who did not answer any questions after telling Zayas that her attorney, David Willis, advised her to assert her 5th amendment right against self-incrimination herself on the witness stand.

Brownsville City Secretary Griselda Rosas and Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza also testified about election procedures.

In addition to a challenge from Presas-Garcia, Tetreau-Kalifa is also facing former Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada.