Former La Joya school board trustee arrested on assault charge
A former La Joya school board trustee accused of assaulting a political opponent was arrested Wednesday on a misdemeanor assault charge.
Rita Garza-Uresti, 56, of Palmhurst is accused of assaulting former Agua Special Utility District board Director Cesar Rodriguez Jr. on May 6, when Peñitas held a mayoral election.
After investigating the incident, the Peñitas Police Department charged Garza-Uresti with assault causing bodily injury. Garza-Uresti turned herself in Wednesday.
“It’s completely baseless,” said attorney Javier Peña of Edinburg, who escorted Garza-Uresti to the Peñitas Police Department on Wednesday afternoon.
Garza-Uresti is well known in western Hidalgo County.
Voters elected Garza-Uresti to the La Joya school board in 2006, when she campaigned with Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and Johnn Alaniz. They called themselves “Team USA.”
After she left the school board, Garza-Uresti became the director of the La Joya ISD Educational Excellence Foundation.
Her husband, Antonio Uresti, is the general manager of Hidalgo County Irrigation District #6 and her son, Anthony Uresti, serves on the La Joya school board.
In May, when Peñitas held a mayoral election, Garza-Uresti supported Claudia Ochoa and the “A New Vision for Peñitas” candidates. Rodriguez, a former member of the Agua SUD board, supported Peñitas Mayor Ramiro Loya.
On the afternoon of May 6, less than two hours before the polls closed, tensions flared between Ochoa’s supporters and Loya’s supporters.
Rodriguez said Antonio Uresti “came up towards him at which point an argument started between the two,” according to the criminal complaint against Garza-Uresti.
“Mr. Rodriguez stated that while him and Mr. Uresti were arguing, Ms. Rita Uresti approached him, grabbed him by the shirt and shoulder and wouldn’t let go,” according to the criminal complaint. “Mr. Rodriguez stated that Ms. Uresti left him scratches on his neck that caused him pain.”
Peñitas police Inv. Oscar Barron — who mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the Agua SUD board in November 2022 — investigated the incident.
When he reviewed body camera video, “Inv. Barron was able to observe (sic) group of people circled around and observed a male subject who was later identified as Narciso Solis trying to pull away a female who was later identified as Rita Uresti from Mr. Rodriguez,” according to the criminal complaint. “Inv. Barron observed Ms. Uresti grabbing on to Mr. Rodriguez (sic) shirt as others were trying to separate them.”
Narciso Solis is a member of the Agua SUD board.
Barron also obtained statements from Ramiro Loya Jr. and Homer Tijerina, a member of the Agua SUD board, who said they witnessed the assault.
Officers obtained a warrant for Garza-Uresti’s arrest on Monday. She turned herself in Wednesday afternoon.
“We think it’s political,” Peña said, adding that Garza-Uresti did not assault Rodriguez and video from the incident doesn’t support his version of the story.
A judge set bond at $5,000 with no cash deposit required.
Officers booked Garza-Uresti at the Hidalgo County jail at 6:21 p.m. Wednesday, according to information released by the Sheriff’s Office. She was released at 7:32 p.m.
The charge against Garza-Uresti, assault causing bodily injury, is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, she faces a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.