**Update: Aranda reluctantly pleads guilty, gets probation. Click here for the story.**
Does the city of Orange not have better things to do than to take little old ladies to criminal court? Genoveva Aranda, a small, fragile grandmother who lives in historic Orange, is going to criminal court today with her public defender to begin the proceedings for her criminal jury trial. Several months ago, the city of Orange promised it would not seek jail time for Aranda, but it has apparently reneged. The ridiculous situation that led Aranda here has left the longtime Orange resident depressed, confused and heartbroken says her daughter, Gema Tapia.
A few months ago Orange Assistant City Attorney Wayne Winthers told KCAL Channel 9 reporter Dave Lopez that he wasn't trying to send the 77-year-old Aranda, who lives in a small house in historic Orange, to jail. In fact, he guaranteed that he and the city would not seek jail time for the grandmother who was found to have building code violations in her home in two small rooms that were added onto the house before Aranda bought it with her husband William nearly 40 years ago. She had no idea the rooms violated any city code until police officers came to her house to do a probation check on her son five years ago.
At the time, Winthers said the burden of bringing the house up to code fell on the owner, and that Aranda (living on Social Security) would need to find a way to pay the estimated $150,000 to bring the house up to code. Heartbroken, Aranda told the story of how she would be happy to fix the house, but that she simply couldn't afford it. Her daugther, Tapia, went to city council meetings, wrote letters to the city and pleaded with Winthers to help her mother, and drop the criminal misdemeanor charges Aranda had been charged with.
After television and newspaper reports ran last November, calls and comments poured in, chastising the city for going after Aranda, and asking for how they could help. Winthers told Lopez at the time that what he was seeking was to have the house fixed, not to have Aranda go to jail. Tapia says she was hopeful that something good would come of the city attorney's promise and the news reports. But despite Tapia's repeated requests for a loan for her mother to fix the house, the city has denied any help.
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Today Genoveva Aranda's criminal jury trial is set to begin, and she's terrified, says Tapia. "The thing that tears me apart is that no one's done anything all these years," Tapia says. A house fire years ago didn't lead to the identification of the code violations, she says. "She's never done anything wrong, and now she's got 15 counts, in criminal court? I can't believe they're doing this to her."