A Fontana Unified School District trustee is embroiled in controversy over failing to disclose to voters, parents and school officials her secret marriage to a former Los Angeles gang member who was convicted of murdering two 21-year-old men in Santa Ana in 1984. Leticia Garcia said she decided it was time to disclose her marriage to Jason Garcia after his Sept. 30 release from the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo and 27 years behind bars. But some say she never would have been elected to a four-year term in November 2010 had voters and opponents known about the hush-hush union.
"This has put all of Fontana under a cloud," City Councilman Michael Tahan told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin's Jim Steinberg, and if you know anything about Fontana city politics and the town's school board (I used to cover both), you know how thick the cloud over "Fontucky" already is.
What especially frosts Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren is 45-year-old Garcia wrote on her application to run for school board last year that she was divorced when she really was not.
"She is the vice chair of one of the largest school districts in Southern California," Warren noted to Steinberg. "When you are elected, you have to be truthful. Now she is crying out for acceptance of a lie."
In the early morning hours of Sept. 8, 1984, then-16-year-old Jason Garcia and other members of LA's Diamond Street gang drove to Santa Ana in search of a party. Their three-car caravan cruised through what Santa Ana's F Troop gang considered its home turf. When F Troop members chased after their rivals, a shooting ensued. F Troop's Anthony Silerio and Frank Villa were slain. Garcia was one of the shooters.
His defense attorney Carl Dresselhaus decided to forgo a jury trial and only present the case to Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan. The lawyer later explained he wanted to avoid "emotional" jurors who might react more harshly to the blood-soaked evidence against his client than a cool-headed judge would. Ryan ultimately convicted Garcia of the second-degree murder of one man and participation in the second-degree murder of the other.
Then-Leticia Chavez met Jason Garcia in 2001 while doing research for a criminology class on how the California prison system tries to rehabilitate young men who receive life sentences but might be released. She claims she dropped the project because she knew she had fallen in love with Garcia. After their wedding in 2002, she changed her last name from Chavez to Garcia.
She tells the Daily Bulletin's Steinberg that she decided to keep that part of her life secret from everyone except family and close friends to avoid having to constantly explain and defend herself. She adds that Jason urged her not to mention him while running for school board.
However, making a messy story even messier is Leticia Garcia's romantic relationship with San Bernardino attorney and Democratic Party insider Tim Prince while Jason was still locked up.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Prince, who said he thought Leticia was divorced for much of their time together, were spotted at several social and political functions until the couple who got together in July 2010 split up this past May. She claims she stopped visiting Jason in prison during her tryst with Prince, who was the Democratic opponent who lost to 'til-he-dies incumbent U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) in 2008.
"In retrospect," Garcia told Steinberg, "I could have handled things differently."
Former Fontana police chief and mayor Frank Scialdone would agree. He noted to the reporter that Garcia often talks about the need for transparency at school board meetings "but is secretly married to a guy in prison while she is out gallivanting with a man in Fontana. . . . Where is the transparency? Where is the leadership?"
According to Garcia, she will remain a leader on the school board through at least the end of her first term because, "It's all about the kids."