Monday, March 24, 2008
Challenger to District Attorney Cooley Facing Criminal Charges
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
One of two candidates challenging Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley in the June 3 primary election is himself facing misdemeanor criminal charges brought by Cooley’s office.
Albert Robles, who filed nomination papers this month to run against Cooley, confirmed that the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division has filed a complaint against him in Downey alleging that he violated state election law by sending out two mass mailings in 2005 that failed to list the name and address of the candidate or committee responsible for sending them.
The complaint, which was filed Nov. 28 of last year, charges Robles with two counts of violating Government Code Sec. 84305, which provides that “no candidate or committee shall send a mass mailing unless the name, street address, and city of the candidate or committee” are displayed, and one count of violating Sec. 84300(b), which prohibits making campaign expenditures of $100 or more in cash.
Robles says that the charges arise in connection with two mass mailings sent out to voters on Nov. 4, 2005 endorsing candidates in three contested races for seats on the Board of Directors of the Pico Water District.
According to the complaint, one of the mailings was titled “Vote Republican,” while the other mailing was titled “The Community Democrat Official Sample Ballot.”
The charge related to the cash expenditure stems from funds allegedly spent in connection with postage for the mailings, Robles says.
The matter is currently set for a pretrial hearing on April 8 and Robles says that he plans to move to dismiss the charges at that time.
First Amendment Argument
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McIntyre v. Ohio Election Commission (1995) 514 U.S. 334, where the court invalidated an Ohio law prohibiting the distribution of anonymous campaign literature on the grounds that the statute abridged free speech in violation of the First Amendment, Robles contends that the California statutes under which he is charged are similarly unconstitutional.
The McIntyre case dealt with a tax referendum, not a campaign for public office.
Stressing that he does not admit to having sent the mailings, Robles also asserts that the statutes under which he is charged would not apply to him even had he done so because he was neither a candidate on the ballot mentioned by the mailings, nor in charge of a committee advocating for or against such a candidate.
He further asserted that any charges associated with posting such mailings would be an in-kind contribution akin to buying “Big Macs, fries and Cokes at McDonalds for campaign volunteers” rather than an “expenditure.”
Accusation of Impropriety
Robles speculated that news of the charges had surfaced via Cooley’s campaign or its surrogates, renewing accusations he made to the METNEWS earlier this month after filing his nomination papers to challenge Cooley that the district attorney, through his office’s Public Integrity Division, had disproportionately and improperly targeted Democratic Party and minority candidates for prosecution.
Labeling the charges against him as both “prosecution and persecution,” he said that he thought Cooley’s office had brought the charges because Robles had “embarrassed” the office when he held a press conference on the front steps of the Hancock Park home of City of Vernon Mayor Leonis C. Malburg arguing that Malburg was violating election law by residing outside of the city, spurring Cooley’s office to investigate the allegations.
Robles said that the charges are an illustration of the “power” that Cooley uses and how the district attorney tries “to manipulate it to his advantage.”
A spokesperson for Cooley’s office confirmed that charges against Robles were pending over the mailings, but declined further comment while they remain pending.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Ipsen, who has also filed nomination papers to challenge Cooley, similarly declined comment, saying that he was unfamiliar with the matter and that it would be “inappropriate” for him, as a member of the District Attorney’s Office, to discuss it because Robles is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company