Delay, But No Media Gag, in Trial of Ex-Compton Mayor

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California judge on Wednesday granted Compton mayoral candidate Omar Bradley’s request to postpone a retrial on charges he misappropriated public funds until after an election in June, but denied his request for a media gag order.

At a brief hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli ordered the former mayor to return to court on June 9, three days after Compton’s general election. The trial is expected to begin later that month.

Prosecutors have charged Bradley on two felony counts of theft of public funds. Bradley maintains his innocence and has said he believes county prosecutors are trying to prevent him from holding public office.

Lomeli asked Bradley if he would be willing to plead guilty if he does not win the general election on June 6. In response, the mayoral candidate said he was “running as a matter of principle,” noted that he did not have retirement benefits, had to make a living and “think about my family,” including his wife and eight grandchildren.

“I don’t believe I did anything criminal and I just want to maintain my family name and my dignity,” Bradley said.

Lomeli rejected Bradley’s bid to give him more time to rest after this latest political endeavor. Bradley said the campaign was “very tiring” and requested a few weeks of rest before he came back to court.

“You want to get on with your life, and you want to get this over with,” Lomeli said.

The judge said the court would see if Bradley has a “change of heart” about entering a plea at his next hearing.

Dressed in brown suit and standing next to his attorney, Bradley asked Lomeli to put a gag on the media citing concerns about the use of electronic devices and stating that the press had reported things that are “absolutely not true.”

“I would hope those individuals will at least be truthful with what they say in the press,” Bradley said, repeatedly shooting sharp glances at the Courthouse News Service reporter covering the hearing.

The judge declined the request, however, and said cameras and other electronic devices are permitted in the courtroom as long as the court clears them first. The CNS reporter used a laptop to take notes on Wednesday, and neither the bailiffs nor the judge ordered him to stop using the device.

Bradley declined to comment at the end of the hearing.

When asked for clarification, criminal defense attorney Robert Hill said Courthouse News had incorrectly reported in an April 13 article the maximum sentence his client could receive if convicted. A district attorney’s office spokesman told Courthouse News in April that the maximum sentence is 5 years and 4 months in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office.

In a phone interview after the hearing, Hill said that sentence was a “theoretical maximum” stemming from the original complaint.

In 2012, a California appeals court overturned Bradley’s conviction because of a state supreme court finding that prosecutors have to make clear that defendants know they are breaking the law in charges that involve the misappropriation of public funds.

Bradley told the Press-Telegram this year that he had served his three-year sentence in prison and a halfway house.

“It’s legally incorrect to say Mr. Bradley could get five years, or five years and change,” Hill said.  “It’s black letter law that a defendant whose case is reversed can’t get a worse sentence – a harsher sentence – on a retrial than the defendant received at the original trial. There’re a few rare exceptions that don’t pertain to Mr. Bradley in which a harsher sentence could be imposed, but those exceptions apply when the sentence itself was erroneous the first time.”

Hill said his client might do a “tiny bit of time” because he had already served the entirety of his sentence before his case was reversed.

“The reason it matters is because as a consequence of a conviction he would be barred from holding office,” Hill said.

The District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Last month, Bradley stated a preference for keeping the case with Lomeli because of his familiarity with the case. But Lomeli said Wednesday that the trial would take place in another courtroom because of his case load.

Bradley made a run-off after capturing 29 percent of the vote in an April 18 municipal primary with 1,501 votes, according to the Press-Telegram. He will face incumbent Aja Brown in the general election, who secured 47 percent of the vote with 2,435 votes.

Bradley, who turns 59 this month, said at last month’s hearing that his latest run for mayor would likely be his last.

He served as mayor from 1993 to 2001 as a self-described “gangster mayor,” and ran unsuccessfully in 2013. His last run for office came as his case was remanded to state court, allowing prosecutors to retry him.

Bradley was convicted of misappropriation and misuse of public funds in 2004. Councilman Amen Rahh and former City Manager John Johnson were also convicted for charging personal items on government-issued credit cards. Bradley charged $7,500 for golf balls, cigars and on-demand movies in hotels, according to a June 2013 Los Angeles Times article, and took cash advances for city business expenses which they charged to the cards.

In late March, the FBI arrested former deputy city treasurer Salvador Galvan, 47, of La Mirada, on charges of stealing more than $3.7 million in city funds from May 2010 to December 2016.

 

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