Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman Found Not Guilty of Bribery Charge
Jurist Says Outcome Proves ‘System Worked’
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman yesterday threw his head back and audibly sighed with relief upon the announcement that a jury had found him not guilty of a felony Elections Code violation stemming from the 2008 contest which brought him to the bench.
The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for less than a day regarding the allegations that Silberman, 54, had offered an inducement to his opponent, Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo, to quit the race.
Orange Superior Court Judge Richard M. King, sitting on assignment, sent the case to the jury late Thursday afternoon after three weeks of trial. Court was not in session Friday, and deliberations resumed yesterday.
The jury announced it had reached a decision just after 3 p.m.
Silberman appeared tense as the jurors filed into the courtroom, repeatedly fidgeting and adjusting his suit. If convicted, he would have faced a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.
After the foreperson read the verdict, King polled the jurors individually, as he said was his custom, and each affirmed the decision. Silberman smiled broadly throughout this process and exchanged congratulations with his attorneys, Daniel Nixon and Shepard Kopp.
Silberman and his campaign advisors, Evelyn Jerome Alexander and Randy Steinberg, were indicted by a grand jury in 2009, but the consultants both entered into plea agreements and testified against their former client. Both pleaded no contest to misdemeanor conspiracy charges and face up to a year in county jail.
Alexander and Steinberg both claimed that Silberman had authorized then-Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Lori Jones to extend an offer for Silberman to pay Murillo’s filing fee if she would move to a different race. The defense, however, asserted Silberman had no knowledge of this offer.
Nixon opined that the case against Silberman “came down to a credibility call” and it was “proved in this trial that the testimony from the complaining witnesses was not credible.”
Although Silberman never took the stand in his own defense, he said yesterday that he has always maintained his innocence.
“I believe in the process, I devoted my life to the process,” he commented, so while the trial was “incredibly nerve-racking,” in the end, “the system worked.”
He suggested that the experience of having been a criminal defendant “can do nothing but make me a better judge” since “I’ve seen the process in a way that very few of my brothers and sisters get to.”
Looking back on the election, he acknowledged he was “very naive.” Silberman said Alexander had been “well-recommended” to him, and “three times had denied anything was wrong” when he first heard of the investigation into the alleged bribe. He also said investigators never told him what the allegations were, and “perhaps it would have been different” had he known.
He further said that potential candidates for judge would be advised to be “better educated” than he was about the elections process. In elections, he said, “the law itself and the field is vague and uncertain, and when you have a certain level of naiveté,” at which point he gestured to himself. When faced with persons who “might want to jump in and be unscrupulous,” there “might be potential for problems,” Silberman said.
The judge also said he was ready to return to work immediately, and looking forward to going home to tell his son, who just turned 18, the “good news.”
Deputy Attorney General Zee Rodriguez reserved comment after yesterday’s hearing.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company