A bench warrant was issued last week for a Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors candidate who failed to appear at a court hearing on Aug. 12.
Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kate Powell Segerstrom issued the warrant on Aug. 14 against Stephen Paul Oropeza, who has announced plans to run in the March 3 primary election for the District 5 board seat that’s currently held by incumbent County Supervisor Karl Rodefer.
Bail associated with the warrant was set at $40,000.
Oropeza could not be reached for comment on Monday, but he made a post on social media over the weekend stating that he missed the Aug. 12 hearing because he put the wrong date in his calendar.
The hearing was to determine whether Oropeza’s probation should be revoked on a misdemeanor conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia, specifically a methamphetamine pipe.
Court records show that a previous bench warrant was issued for Oropeza after he failed to appear at a July 1 hearing. He turned himself into Tuolumne County Jail on July 16 and was released on his own recognizance.
Oropeza also failed to appear at three other court dates since March, according to the records. His initial paraphernalia charge stems from an arrest on June 20, 2017.
In a previous interview, Oropeza said he was arrested after a law enforcement officer found a meth pipe in his vehicle during a traffic stop. He maintained that the pipe actually belonged to a friend whom he was helping move and fell out of a box unbeknownst to him.
Oropeza pleaded guilty on Dec. 6, 2017, to misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia and two misdemeanors for failing to appear at previous court dates. He was sentenced to three years of probation, ordered to pay a $580 fine and complete 18 days of work release.
Court records filed in March showed that Oropeza’s probation was at risk of being revoked because he failed to enroll in the work release program prior to the deadline on Feb. 22 of this year.
A court date is scheduled for Sept. 18 in a separate case filed against Oropeza on suspicion of driving without a license, a misdemeanor, and failing to provide proof of insurance at the scene of an accident, an infraction, on July 17, 2018.
Records showed that a bench warrant was previously issued for Oropeza in the other case after he missed a court date on April 24.
Oropeza has also acknowledged that he struggled with meth addiction for about three years up until the 2017 arrest and a separate conviction last year for driving under the influence of alcohol.
The court’s computer system showed that a jury convicted Oropeza of DUI on Dec. 11.
Despite all of the recent legal issues, Oropeza has remained steadfast in his resolve to run for one of the county’s highest elected offices. The position pays $51,000 per year and oversees an annual budget that typically exceeds $200 million.
Oropeza, 39, of Jamestown, has said that he doesn’t have any past experience in government and believes that the personal struggles he’s had to overcome are part of what would make him a good candidate for the job.
Rodefer recently announced that he would not be seeking a third consecutive four-year term as supervisor of District 5, which includes the communities of Columbia, Jamestown, Tuttletown, Stent and Gold Springs.
Two other candidates, Steve Arreguin and Jaron Brandon, have also launched their campaigns for Rodefer’s seat.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.