Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Defense Says County Continuing to Deny Medical Care To Jailed Planning Official Accused of Taking Bribes
By LORELEI LAIRD, Staff Writer
Yesterday’s bail hearing for a former Los Angeles County employee charged with forging millions of dollars’ worth of land permit documents was continued amid allegations that he is not receiving medical care in county jail.
David Ogden, defense attorney for former land division specialist Emmet Taylor, was allowed to put off his client’s arraignment and bail hearing to Friday in order to resolve scheduling problems. Judge Jeffrey Harkavy also granted a continuance of the prosecution’s request for a handwriting exemplar.
Ogden also told the court yesterday that county jail officials are ignoring requests for medical treatment from his client, who had knee replacement surgery just four days before his arrest and is now in the hospital wing of the jail.
Ogden said jail officials are ignoring at least two requests for treatment, once after the judge issued an order authorizing such treatment last Friday. He did not say what treatment Taylor required, though deputy district attorney Richard Ceballos said Taylor, 64, has high blood pressure and other medical conditions that might complicate his recovery from the surgery.
The jail has a recent history of complaints from inmates who say their medical needs were ignored. Former inmates brought fourteen medical malpractice suits against the county from July 2001 to July 2002. Eight were dismissed, but the county settled five for a total of nearly $1 million, including one for $800,000 to a former inmate who says he’s permanently brain damaged because county medical testers missed clear evidence of disease in his blood, causing him to develop a brain lesion and collapse in his cell.
Prosecutors allege that Taylor faked the signatures of a grantor and a notary on certificates of compliance that said landowners had followed legal requirements necessary to subdivide land in the San Gabriel and Antelope Valleys. He then submitted the certificates to his supervisor for approval and a legitimate signature. This allegedly went on from 1995 until 2000, when the scheme was discovered and Taylor was fired. Prosecutors allege Taylor pocketed about $500,000 in illegal fees from the developers.
The certificates allowed the developers to save thousands of dollars and many months ñ robbing the county of $2 million in fees and the developments’ neighbors of a chance to comment on new development. The discovery of the scheme means county officials must review years’ worth of certificates from the planner’s office to determine their legitimacy. And those who have since bought lots on the illegally subdivided land may have to take actions that should have been taken by the developer, such as giving up part of their land for road easements.
Taylor was arrested on 97 counts of forgery and filing false documents last Wednesday at his home in Fullerton, after two years of investigation. His bail, initially set at $1.87 million, was reset at $1 million last Friday.
Prosecutors are also investigating Taylor’s customers to find out which of them can be prosecuted for their part in the scheme. According to Ceballos, it’s not yet clear who was aware the certificates weren’t kosher.
“Some probably did know, some are in a situation where they should have known, and there are those who probably didn’t know,” Ceballos said. “We’re focused on Taylor right now.”
Ogden was not available for comment yesterday afternoon.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company