Thursday, July 21, 2011
Judge Approved Paying Opponent’s Filing Fee, Consultant Says
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman expressly authorized a consulting firm to pay his opponent’s filing fee if she would drop out of his race and run against someone else, a principal in the now-defunct firm testified yesterday.
Evelyn Jerome Alexander said that Silberman made the offer on her advice. Alexander said she was concerned that Silberman, then a court commissioner, would have difficulty beating Serena Murillo in the June 2008 contest because Murillo had the perceived advantages of being female, Hispanic, and a prosecutor.
Silberman is on trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, charged with violation of an Elections Code section that makes it a felony to “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.”
Silberman, Alexander, and Alexander’s then-partner, Randy Steinberg, were indicted two years ago on the felony charge. Alexander and Steinberg recently entered into separate agreements, however, to plead no contest to misdemeanor conspiracy charges and are cooperating with prosecutors.
Steinberg is expected to testify after Alexander’s cross-examination by Silberman attorney Daniel Nixon concludes today.
Alexander testified that she was with since-retired Superior Court Commissioner Lori Jones at Jones’ home just before the deadline for candidates to file declarations of intent to run.
Jones—who was, at the time, being advised by Alexander while debating which of several open judgeships to run for herself—called Murillo and other candidates to sound them out as to which specific seats they might be running for.
Jones testified Tuesday that she made a “hypothetical” suggestion to Murillo that Silberman would be willing to pay her filing fee if she would shift out of the contest for Office No. 69, one of 11 open seats up for grabs. When Jones reported that Murillo might be receptive, Alexander testified, she called Silberman.
She is certain Silberman “gave his affirmation,” Alexander said, although she could not recall the exact words he used.
Silberman and his lawyers have insisted that he never authorized any such offer. Alexander is the first witness to directly refute that claim.
Proceedings were delayed in the afternoon after Alexander, on advice of her attorney, Larry Bakman—who was present in the courtroom—invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege. She did so in response to a question from Nixon as to whether she had conveyed or recommended similar offers in other campaigns.
The issue was resolved after prosecutors moved to grant Alexander use immunity under California Penal Code Sec. 1324. In granting immunity, Orange Superior Court Judge Richard King, hearing the case on assignment, explained that it protects her from having the testimony used against her in any California court.
She testified that offers to pay filing fees or other expenses are made “all the time” in order to induce candidates not to run in specific races. She said that she herself had never done so, but was prepared to do so on behalf of Superior Court Commissioner Bobbi Tillmon in 2006.
Alexander related that she went to the registrar’s office on the last day of filing, prepared to write a personal check to a prospective opponent and request reimbursement from the campaign. That turned out to be unnecessary because Tillmon ran unopposed.
Alexander said she told Tillmon what she was going to do.
Under further questioning by Nixon, Alexander acknowledged that she was what the attorney called “the missing link”—the person who could directly implicate her former client—and that she was seeking to improve her situation after Steinberg entered into his plea agreement with the Attorney General’s Office.
It was Steinberg, she said, who came up with an alternative proposal after the declaration-of-intent period ended.
At the time, Alexander explained, Silberman—because he had filed declarations of intent for two different races—had the option of running in Office No. 94, which had multiple candidates. Had he done so, Murillo—who had no other options because No. 69 was the only seat she had declared for—would have been elected unopposed.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company