Kitchens returns to court in August

Former candidate accused of claiming illegal home address

The July 16 preliminary hearing for Neil Kitchens, a former Republican candidate for state assembly District 30 accused of five felonies related to voter fraud and forgery, has been delayed until mid-August.

Kitchens’ preliminary hearing in Monterey County is scheduled for Aug. 15, with a brief hearing to confirm that date on Aug. 13, according to attorneys.

Kitchens, a Prunedale resident, was the GOP candidate in the November 2018 election for Assembly District 30, which includes all of San Benito County and portions of Santa Clara, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

But Kitchens was not a resident of District 30 when he registered to vote and signed up as a candidate, according to Monterey County Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon. Kitchen faces five felony charges related to this alleged incorrect voter and candidate registration: two counts of voter registration fraud and three counts of procuring and offering a false or forged instrument.

“The conduct is two things: registering to vote in a district where you don’t live, and filing for candidacy to run in a district where you don’t live,” Brannon said July 22. He noted that in order for a candidate to run for office in a specific district, the candidate must be registered to vote in that district.

Kitchens pleaded not guilty to the charges at a June 28 arraignment at the Monterey County courthouse in Salinas. His attorney, Frank Dice, did not comment on the allegations when contacted earlier this week.

Brannon said that when Kitchens filed his paperwork for the District 30 candidacy, he listed an address for a property he owns within the district that is not his primary residence. Brannon explained that the property Kitchens claimed as his residence is in Salinas—within District 30—and he has rented the site to a tenant or tenants.

Kitchens’ primary residence is in the Prunedale area, which is in Assembly District 29, Brannon added.

“They have to register at their primary residence,” Brannon said of candidates for state district offices in general.

If convicted of all five charges, Kitchens faces a maximum sentence of three years, eight months in prison, Brannon said. 

The criminal case against Kitchens was referred to Monterey County prosecutors by the California Secretary of State’s office, Brannon added. 

Kitchens ran against Democrat Robert Rivas of Hollister in the November 2018 District 30 race. Rivas won handily, with Kitchens receiving 37 percent of the votes cast.

The purpose of the Aug. 15 preliminary hearing is to allow the judge to determine whether the case should go to trial, based on evidence to be presented by prosecutors. 

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