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The State

Mendota Mayor Alex Valdez and Fresno developer Jerry Harris pleaded innocent in U.S. District Court in Fresno to charges of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. U.S. Magistrate Alan Christensen set a May 23 status conference in the case. The two were indicted by a federal grand jury last month. The indictment alleges that Harris, Valdez and an undercover FBI agent met last summer to discuss low-income housing for Mendota. Valdez allegedly demanded $25,000 to get favorable approval for the project from the Mendota City Council, and the undercover agent reportedly paid a $5,000 advance bribe. Valdez’s current attorney, Richard Berman, told the judge he has been unable to reach agreement with Valdez on representation and that the mayor might instead seek to be represented by a federal public defender. Christensen gave Valdez and Berman until Tuesday to decide the matter.


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