Friday, January 15, 2010
Judge Dismisses Some Charges in Silberman Case
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Orange Superior Court Judge hearing election bribery charges against Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman and two campaign consultants yesterday threw out half of the charges.
Judge Richard M. King, in a brief minute order made public late Wednesday, dismissed allegations that Silberman, Evelyn Jerome Alexander, and Randy Steinberg volated Penal Code Sec. 653f(a), which makes it a crime to “solicit[ ] another to offer, accept, or join in the offer or acceptance of a bribe.”
“Bribe” is defined in Sec. 7 of the code as “anything of value or advantage, present or prospective, or any promise or undertaking to give any, asked, given, or accepted, with a corrupt intent to influence, unlawfully, the person to whom it is given, in his or her action, vote, or opinion, in any public or official capacity.”
King declined, however, to dismiss the remaining charges, so each defendant now stands accused of a single violation of Elections Code Sec. 18205.
The statute declares:
“A person shall not directly or through any other person advance, pay, solicit, or receive or cause to be advanced, paid, solicited, or received, any money or other valuable consideration to or for the use of any person in order to induce a person not to become or to withdraw as a candidate for public office.”
Violation is punishable by up to three years in prison.
The judge gave no reasons for ruling as he did, but the prosecutor in the case, state Deputy Attorney General Zee Rodriguez, speculated that King might have accepted the defense argument that a person seeking office does not act in a public capacity.
Daniel Nixon, the Los Angeles attorney who represents Silberman, said he and his client were “gratified” by the dismissal of the solicitation count but said the entire case against the judge should have been thrown out.
“We believe that the evidence against Judge Silberman was based on inadmissible hearsay and should not have been the basis for criminal charges,” Nixon told the MetNews. “So we’ll continue to fight the case.”
Nixon said the remaining count might be vulnerable to a writ petition but that a decision on whether to bring one “has not been made yet.”
Steven Meister, who represents Steinberg, said he was “really excited about” the partial victory. The judge, he said, “put some reins on a prosecution run amok” and had delivered “a sharp rebuke of the attorney general.”
Like Nixon, he said he did not know whether he would be seeking writ review as to the remaining charge.
“We are analyzing the ruling,” Meister said. “It would have been great to get a clean win but I’ll take a split over a loss any day.”
Continued prosecution of the case, he added, “is such a colossal waste of time and money” that the Attorney General’s Office should consider asking for a dismissal.
Alexander’s attorney, Larry Bakman, was unavailable for comment.
Alexander and Steinberg are partners in the consulting firm of SJA Strategies, which handled then-Commissioner Silberman’s successful campaign for an open seat in the June 2008 primary. The prosecution alleges that each of the three defendants made a separate offer of money to induce Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo to run for another seat, rather than against Silberman.
The charges were initially investigated by the District Attorney’s Office—Murillo’s employer—before the case was turned over to the attorney general.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company