Francisco Dominguez, a former Gilroy Unified School District trustee who is charged with two counts of felony grand theft after he allegedly embezzled more than $52,000 from a leading South County social services agency, appeared in court for a plea hearing Tuesday morning at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.
Dominguez plead not guilty to two counts of felony grand theft, and named San Jose attorney Esau Herrera as his legal representative instead of choosing a public defender to represent him in his case.
Deputy District Attorney John Chase was not surprised by the lightening-fast court appearance Tuesday.
“This is typical and expected as part of this process,” he explained. “There is no rush because Dominguez is not currently in custody.”
Tuesday was the embattled consultant’s first court appearance since his Nov. 13 arraignment. He will likely not appear in front of a judge again until mid-February when a preliminary examination date is scheduled.
Wearing a sport coat and sitting alone on a bench outside the courtroom, Dominguez tapped his foot anxiously while waiting and appeared stoic as he declined to comment on the case against him.
Dominguez turned himself in after he was charged in late October by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. He is out on $20,000 bail, according to the DA’s Office.
The 51-year-old Gilroy resident and sole proprietor of DZ Consulting is accused of defrauding a local charitable organization known as the South County Collaborative, as well as an international engineering firm out of “tens of thousands of dollars” in his role as a hired consultant with a firm contracted to perform outreach for the California High Speed Rail Authority, according to a DA press release.
If convicted, Dominguez – who officially resigned from the Board of Education Nov. 9, 2011 after allegations came to light – could face more than three years in jail.
The DA’s office launched an investigation in early June 2011 following reports by the Gilroy Dispatch, which in May 2011 broke the news that Dominguez had come under fire for “systematic” embezzlement.