Monday, June 21, 2010
Silberman Seeks Separate Trial in Bribery Case
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
SANTA ANA—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman wants a separate trial from his co-defendants on a charge that he offered money to his 2008 election opponent to drop out of the race, his attorney said in court Friday.
Daniel Nixon announced at Friday’s pretrial conference that he had filed a motion to sever the judge’s case form that of Evelyn Jerome Alexander and Randy Steinberg. Each of the three is charged with a separate 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.”
The reasons for the motion, Nixon explained, are that each of the three is charged with having committed a separate crime on a separate date, with no allegations of conspiracy, and hearsay statements by the other defendants might be used against Silberman at a joint trial.
The use of such statements would violate Silberman’s constitutional protection against self-incrimination, as explained by the state high court in People v. Aranda (1965) 63 Cal. 2d 518, Nixon said.
Orange Superior Court Judge Richard M. King, who is hearing the case on assignment, said he would not hold a hearing on the motion until other motions, which the judge ordered filed by Sept. 17, are heard. The outcome of those motions might affect the ruling on the severance motion, King explained.
For example, the judge said, the statements that Nixon said he was concerned with might be suppressed, rendering the Aranda issue moot.
Silberman and his attorneys maintained that he made no inducements to Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo to get out of the contest—Silberman defeated Murillo in the June 2008 primary—and that anyone who did so was operating without his knowledge or consent.
King set Oct. 15 as the day when all defense motions will be heard, and the defendants agreed to waive speedy trial rights for up to 60 days beyond that. King suggested, however, that it is unlikely the case will actually get to trial this year.
The case is presently tied up in discovery issues, and attorney Larry Bakman, who represents Alexander, said he has an upcoming complex federal trial that may require taking three weeks of depositions outside the country during the period that he would otherwise be required to prepare his motions on behalf of Alexander. King said he could file a motion to continue if necessary.
The discovery issues include privilege and work product claims, requiring in camera hearings, in connection with subpoenas duces tecum. Such claims were the subject of an in camera hearing Friday, at which King said he questioned William J. Kopeny.
King did not announce a ruling in connection with anything discussed in chambers.
Kopeny is an Orange County lawyer and former chair of the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, of which Murillo is a former member. Kopeny testified before the grand jury that indicted the three defendants that he received a phone call from Silberman—then a court commissioner—after he and Murillo took out papers to run for the same judicial seat.
Kopeny told the grand jury that Silberman urged him to convince Murillo to pull out of the race, in order to preserve the image and integrity of the JNE Commission. Silberman, Kopeny said, maintained that Murillo’s candidacy would discredit the commission because he had applied for a judgeship while Murillo was on the commission, giving her access to confidential information that she could use against him in the campaign.
Kopeny said he told Silberman that he took the charges very seriously, and would look into the matter, but did not think there was any law or rule prohibiting a former commissioner from running against someone who was evaluated by the commission during that person’s tenure.
He then looked into the matter and determined that Murillo had no access to any information about any of the candidates evaluated by the commission during the timeframe that would have included Silberman’s evaluation, he said. Kopeny was careful to explain that he could confirm only what Silberman told him, and could not confirm whether or when the commission actually evaluated Silberman, because of JNE Commission confidentiality rules.
Silberman has been disqualified from sitting as a judge since his indictment last July, although he continues to draw his salary and benefits.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company