President Donald Trump has been claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had an unfair advantage over him in the 2016 election because millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in her favor — an allegation he has never been able to prove. On Monday, however, a Mexican man really did go on trial for voter fraud charges in a federal courtroom in Sacramento, California. But here’s the ironic part: 64-year-old Gustavo Araujo Lerma is, according to the Sacramento Bee, an avowed Trump supporter.
Evidence that is being presented by federal prosecutors in the case, the Sacramento Bee’s Sam Stanton reports, includes thank-you letters to Lerma from Trump as well as RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and former RNC Chair Reince Priebus. A June 2, 2017 letter from Trump told Lerma that the president and Vice President Mike Pence “are deeply grateful for your resolve to help us make American safer, stronger and more prosperous than ever before.”
According to a trial brief filed by prosecutors Katherine Lydon and Shea Kenny, “The evidence will show that the defendant was born in Mexico in 1955, married a woman named Maria Manriquez in 1982 and had two children with her in Mexico in the 1980s. By the early 1990s, he began living in the United States, fraudulently using the identity of a Puerto Rican-born United States citizen named Hiram Velez.”
One of the witnesses for the prosecution, the Sacramento Bee reports, is a Sacramento County elections official who can show that Lerma went to the polls in five different elections and signed in as “Hiram Velez.”
Defense attorneys, however, are arguing that Lerma was legally entitled to use the name “Hiram Velez” under California common law and was doing nothing fraudulent.
Lerma, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2017, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.