Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Silberman Did Not Say He Would Pay Opponent to Quit Race, Former Commissioner Jones Testifies
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A key prosecution witness told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury yesterday that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman did not tell her he would pay money to get his opponent out of his 2008 election contest.
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Lori Jones testified regarding a call she placed to Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo.
In sounding the prosecutor out about the possibility of running for a different seat if her filing fee was paid, Jones said, she was posing a “hypothetical” and did not intend to convey that Silberman had actually made any such offer, because he hadn’t.
Silberman was indicted two years ago under an Elections Code section that makes it a felony to offer anything of value to induce a person not to be a candidate for elective office.
At the time of the election, Silberman and Jones were both Superior Court commissioners interested in running for open seats as judges on the court. Silberman’s campaign consultants were Evelyn Jerome Alexander and Randy Steinberg, and Jones was in the process of hiring them to represent her, she testified.
Alexander and Steinberg were indicted along with Silberman, but recently pled to lesser charges. They are awaiting sentencing and are expected to testify for the prosecution later in the trial, which was in its second day of testimony yesterday.
Jones acknowledged meeting with Alexander, then calling Murillo, in the consultant’s presence, and telling her that while Murillo “might think I’m crazy,” Silberman would be willing to pay her filing fee in order for her to file for another race.
She said she had called Silberman, as well as at least two other candidates for open seats, while scouting around for a race to run in herself.
Murillo was often emotional as she testified earlier in the day about the “murky quagmire” that the campaign descended into after Jones’ call. Murillo said she had wanted to make a campaign issue of Silberman’s apparent willingness to buy her out, she said, but felt constrained not to, because her own office was looking into the matter and deputy district attorneys are not permitted to comment on pending investigations.
But under questioning by Silberman co-counsel Shepard Kopp, she acknowledged that Silberman never told her he would pay her to run against somebody else. Her belief that Silberman had authorized the offer, she said, was a result of the Jones call, as well as a call that Alexander made to a consultant she was using at the time, Hal Dash of Cerrell Associates.
Initially, she explained, she thought that Jones—who told her that she was simply looking to avoid running against “another woman of color”—was acting purely in her own interests, and perhaps wanted to run against Silberman herself.
But when she later learned that Jones and Silberman were repesented by the same consultants, she said, “I realized it was a scam.”
The defendant’s attorneys insist that he was confident in his ability to beat Murillo, that any approach to Murillo was made without his knowledge, and that Jones and the consultants were all looking out for their own interests, not Silberman’s.
Jones, who testified before the grand jury, and is testifying at trial, under a grant of immunity, was placed on administrative leave from her commissioner’s position in 2009, shortly after the release of her grand jury testimony in the matter, and retired a short time later.
Now practicing as a criminal defense attorney, she confirmed that her role in the approach to Murillo is “pretty much” the reason she had to leave the bench.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company