Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Commissioner Jones Placed on Leave After Release Of Grand Jury Testimony in Bribe Investigation
By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner who admitted contacting a judicial candidate about the availability of a financial incentive to switch races last year has been placed on paid administrative leave, the MetNews has learned.
A court spokesperson confirmed that Lori-Ann C. Jones was placed on leave Friday afternoon. While he would not give further details, that action followed the release of a transcript of Jones’ June 17 testimony before the grand jury looking into allegations that Deputy District Attorney Serena Murrillo was offered a bribe to drop out of the contest for a Los Angeles Superior Court judgeship ultimately won by Judge Harvey Silberman.
Jones testified pursuant to an immunity agreement negotiated between the Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, and her attorney, H. Clay Jacke. Jones said yesterday that the court was “doing what they need to do” by placing her on leave.
She said she had no idea how long she would remain on leave, and declined to offer a reaction to the release of the grand jury transcripts. Jacke did not return a MetNews phone call.
Los Angeles Superior Court rules include detailed procedures by which commissioners may be removed from office. It is up to the presiding judge to initiate the process, which ultimately requires a vote of the court’s Executive Committee.
Silberman and consultants Evelyn Jerome Alexander and Randy Steinberg are charged with soliciting a bribe and offering something of value to persuade a person not to become a candidate for judicial office, both felonies.
Consulting Firm Retained
Jones—a former deputy district attorney who ran for judge in 2004 and was elected commissioner in March 2006—told grand jurors that she had developed a friendship with Alexander prior to Feb. 10 of last year and was considering retaining Alexander’s firm, SJA Strategies, to handle her second bid for election to the court.
She ultimately retained the firm and ran for the seat then held by Judge Gibson W. Lee, but the relationship ended prior to the general election due to a disagreement about payment, she said. Jones lost the general election last November to Patrick Connolly.
Jones acknowledged meeting with Alexander at Jones’ home on Feb. 10, two days after Jones took out papers to run for several judicial seats, including those held by Judges Tracy Grant—the seat that Silberman and Murillo ultimately ran for—and Michael Duggan.
Jones testified that she knew that SJA was representing Silberman, so that if she hired them, she could not run for the same seat. Jones also did not want to run against a deputy district attorney or another member of an ethnic minority group—Jones is African American—she said.
She said she called several candidates and potential candidates that day, including Murillo, whom she spoke to twice.
During the first conversation, Jones said Murillo told her she could not afford to move out of the race, because she had already paid the nearly $1,800 filing fee. In the second conversation, Jones testified, she told Murillo, based on Jones having spoken to Silberman or Alexander in the interim:
“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but Silberman said he would pay for your filing fee if you run in another race.”
Jones also admitted that she had told district attorney investigators that Silberman did not offer any money to Murillo. She said that, she told the grand jury, because she “decided I didn’t want to be in the conversation anymore, because it was getting too weird.”
She was, she explained, “put off by the entire thing, the whole idea that something wrong had happened.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company