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California Corruption Probe Takes a Twist

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A California state senator being investigated for corruption sued the United States, claiming the federal probe is a vendetta for his refusing to wear a wire in a sting against two other state senators.

Ronald Calderon, D-Montebello, claims Uncle Sam smeared him by raiding his office and leaking an FBI affidavit falsely accusing him of accepting bribes.

Calderon, represented by Mark Geragos, sued the federal government Wednesday, the day after he was stripped of his legislative committee assignments pending the outcome of an investigation into whether he took $88,000 in bribes.

The sealed FBI affidavit, which was leaked last month by cable news network Al Jazeera America, claims that Calderon accepted the bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio owner and a Southern California hospital executive.

Calderon, who denies wrongdoing, claims the affidavit was purposefully leaked by the government as payback for his refusal to secretly record the stare Senate leader's conversations with another lawmaker.

Calderon claims in his lawsuit that he "was approached on six separate occasions by high level agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and on two occasions by the United States Attorney for the Central District of California Doug Miller demanding that Senator Calderon participate in a sting operation against Senate President pro Tem Darrel Steinberg. The FBI was specifically interested in Senator Steinberg's financial activities with Michael Drobot, the former Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.

"Senator Calderon refused to continue participating in the FBI's sting operation, and rejected their demands to secretly record conversations with Senator Steinberg and Senator de Leon," Calderon says in the complaint.

Calderon claims that his attorney returned the FBI's wire equipment to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Calderon included in his complaint an "Acknowledgement of Receipt" for the equipment signed by the FBI.

Calderon claims that after he refused to spy on his fellow senators, the FBI raided his office - on June 4 this year.

Calderon claims that the FBI alerted the media to the raid.

"The FBI raid of Senator Calderon's office became a media spectacle with camera crews present for the entire ordeal," the lawsuit states. "The FBI raid was conducted after the FBI presented an affidavit which included numerous false and defamatory allegations about Senator Calderon. The FBI affidavit omitted facts that just days before the affidavit was prepared, the FBI was attempting to use Senator Calderon as an informant."

Al Jazeera America reported the raid on Oct. 20. An accompanying article included confidential details about the FBI's investigation, leading Calderon to the conclusion that the leak could only have come from the FBI or the U.S. Attorney in the Central District of California (AUSA-CDC), which was in charge of the investigation.

"The details of the FBI's investigation, the strategy and direction of the investigation, the potential charges being considered by the government, and the contents of the FBI's affidavit are all information that could be known only to those within the U.S. Attorney's office," Calderon says in his lawsuit.

Calderon claims the U.S. Attorney's Office has a history of leaking confidential and sealed documents leaked to the press.

He claims it is clear in this case that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office "engaged in a campaign to smear the reputation of Senator Calderon and convict him in the press and public before a grand jury was assembled and while it was hearing evidence. Short of that, they seek to have him removed from office."

Calderon is facing pressure to resign. On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg stripped him of his committee positions, and on Wednesday Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and community leaders in Calderon's district held a news conference calling for Calderon to resign from the state Senate.

In his lawsuit, Calderon asks the federal court to hold the government in contempt, claiming that the actions of the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office have "prejudiced any future grand jury proceeding and irreparably tainted any future court proceedings involving Senator Calderon."

"The presumption of innocence has been turned on its head," Calderon says in the complaint.

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