A seemingly minor identity theft case could have ramifications in a race for a Stanislaus County supervisor's seat.
While prosecutors and defense attorneys haggle over whether Serena Essapour used Supervisor Jim DeMartini's Social Security number to get credit cards, a part of the case makes for intriguing -- and baffling -- grist for the speculation mill.
For those with vivid imaginations, some of that speculation also can be factored in to handicapping DeMartini's re-election race against Newman Mayor John Fantazia.
First among the points to ponder is why Mark Geragos -- he of Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson defense fame -- is representing Essapour, a 22-year-old from Turlock.
Geragos' reputation as a defender of the famous means he can charge a rate for billable hours that would seem beyond the financial reach of Essapour, a former political aide and journalist.
On a separate track, the hottest issue in DeMartini's district, which includes Stanislaus County's West Side, is the proposed West Park business and industrial park at the former Crows Landing Air Facility.
DeMartini, acknowledging constituent concerns about the project, opposes West Park as it's currently proposed.
West Park developer Gerry Kamilos has started a public relations campaign to rally support for the project. It's not a stretch to think Kamilos would be better off if DeMartini were booted from office.
Here's where you can start having fun.
Late last year, a new Patterson resident, Donna Worley, began a public drive to enact term limits for Patterson City Council members. And oh, yeah, she's in favor of West Park.
According to a Patterson video production company, Worley bought community television tapes that included footage of DeMartini.
The same footage also could be seen in a YouTube video, since pulled, that attacked DeMartini and smeared his association with Essapour.
Worley said she had nothing to do with the video.
Now throw in that Geragos has seemed willing to let Essapour's case go to trial, which could coincide with the height of the supervisorial campaign. That could mean intriguing testimony by Essapour and DeMartini about how and why the alleged identity theft came about.
If one sees the hand of Kamilos in all this -- he, Geragos and Worley all have said their efforts are unrelated -- then all that's missing for a good conspiracy is a grassy knoll and some Cubans.
Of course, a conspiracy is easier to guess at than prove, and tying together the strands listed above doesn't make a knot of certainty.
DeMartini said he doesn't believe Essapour's trial will be held against him.
"I'm not the one who committed a crime," he said. "But I've always felt I'm more of a target."
DeMartini said he's been frustrated by the trial's delays, many of them because of motions filed by Geragos. If the case goes to a jury trial, DeMartini said, he'd be all for it and is not worried about what might come out.
"She's pleading innocent, and I know she's not, so let's go to trial," said DeMartini, who first gained notice in Stanislaus County as a leading local voice for the Republican Party. "Let's see all the evidence; let's get everything out and not have any questions."
DeMartini's sole opposition for another term is Fantazia, who said he's as baffled by the moves against DeMartini as anyone.
"It's strange all the way around," Fantazia said, adding he has no connection to the video or Geragos. "That's not the way I do things."
Like DeMartini, Fantazia isn't a fan of the West Park proposal.
"It's just too big," he said. And there's no need to plan for 5,000 acres when it will take years to develop just the acreage within the former air base, he said.
Fantazia's stance throws more cold water on the plot against DeMartini theory, because it isn't clear Fantazia would change how fast West Park moves forward.
But if there's such a move afoot, DeMartini said, he's confident voters won't buy it.
"I've worked hard on this board and I've never missed a day," said DeMartini, first elected to a four-year term in 2004.
"I'm out walking precincts, and the sentiment I get is very good."
Fantazia said he won't exploit the shadowy circumstances around DeMartini.
"I'm not going to bring it up," he said. "Other facts may come up, and then the facts are what they are."
Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2331.