Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Ex-Judge Dorn Admits Conflict of Interest, Resigns as Inglewood Mayor
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roosevelt Dorn pled guilty to a misdemeanor conflict of interest charge yesterday, less than 24 hours after resigning as mayor of Inglewood.
The ex-jurist, who ended his 18-year judicial career following his election to the mayor’s post in 1997, admitted a violation of Government Code Sec. 1090, which makes it a crime for a public employee or official to personally benefit from a contract made in his or her official capacity.
Dorn, 74, was sentenced to two years probation and fined $1,000 by Judge George Lomeli. Dorn is also subject to penalty assessments that will approximately double the fine.
Deputy District Attorney Juliet Schmidt, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman, said the Sec. 1090 charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and two felony charges of misappropriating public funds were dropped, as part of a plea agreement.
The Sec. 1090 conviction also results in an automatic lifetime ban on holding public office.
Dorn was charged in June 2008 in connection with a low-interest loan he obtained through the City of Inglewood in 2004. Prosecutors said Dorn had a law modified in order to become eligible for a city program that offered low-interest housing to executive non-elected municipal employees in order to enable them to obtain housing within the city.
The change in the law extended the program to elected officials. The change was repealed in November 2006, after residents complained that extending the program to elected officials was unfair and unnecessary—since those officials had to live in the city in any event—and that it violated the City Charter.
Dorn, who later said he relied on advice of city administrators, obtained a $500,000 loan through the program in November 2004, about five months after the law was changed. His 30-year loan came with a variable interest rate of 2.39 percent, much less than the market rate, prosecutors said.
Dorn used the funds to pay off his mortgage and allegedly put the remaining $266,000 in the bank, prosecutors said. Records show he repaid the loan in October 2006.
If convicted on all counts, he could have been sentenced to more than four years in prison.
His attorney, Albert Deblanc Jr., did not return a MetNews phone call.
Dorn was an Inglewood Municipal Court judge from 1979 to 1980 and a Superior Court judge from 1980 until he resigned to become Inglewood’s first full-time mayor following his election 13 years ago.
The ex-jurist, a native of rural Oklahoma, served in the U.S. Air Force and attended a couple of different colleges before coming to Los Angeles. He attended California State University, Los Angeles while working as a bailiff for eight years, and graduated from Whittier School of Law in 1969.
He was hired by the Los Angeles city attorney as a deputy, prosecuting misdemeanors for nine years, the last two as the chief criminal trial deputy. One of his trials, the prosecution of Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction and others for misdemeanor manslaughter as the result of 17 deaths in a Sylmar tunnel explosion, lasted 54 weeks and ended in a guilty verdict.
Then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the municipal court in 1979 and elevated him to the Superior Court a year later. He heard criminal and civil cases in Compton for two years before being assigned to Inglewood juvenile court.
His reputation at the juvenile court was that of a hardnosed jurist, and defense lawyers often accused him of substituting his personal sense of right and wrong for the rules of evidence and the law. His penchant for strictly supervising juveniles on probation became the subject of a 1996 Los Angeles Magazine feature whose title was a quote attributed to the judge when addressing a new probationer—“You belong to Judge Dorn now!”
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company