LOS ANGELES (CN) – Opening arguments began Monday in the retrial of former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, who faces charges he used taxpayer funds for personal expenses.
County prosecutors have charged Bradley, 59, on two felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. Bradley managed to postpone his trial to this month after running unsuccessfully for mayor this year.
Bradley was convicted of misappropriation and misuse of public funds in 2004. Eight years later, a California appeals court overturned his conviction after the state supreme court found that prosecutors have to make clear that defendants know they are breaking the law in charges related to the theft of public funds.
Bradley charged $7,500 for golf balls, cigars and on-demand movies in hotels, according to news reports, and took cash advances for city business expenses charged to the cards.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Deputy District Attorney Ana Lopez urged a state court jury on Monday morning to find Bradley guilty of using taxpayers’ money for personal expenses. As mayor, Bradley was well-versed in the charter city’s rules and regulations, she said, and should have known that what he was doing was wrong.
Councilman Amen Rahh and former City Manager John Johnson were also convicted for charging personal items on government-issued credit cards.
During a period that began in 1999 and ended in 2001, Lopez said that the City Council passed a resolution without public comment authorizing the issuance of city credit cards to Bradley and other council members.
“Spending became very relaxed. There was a lack of discipline,” Lopez told the jurors.
Though Bradley understood the rules, checks and balances at the city “went out of the window” and there was a lot of “free spending” by Bradley and other city officials, she said.
Bradley’s attorney Robert Hill pushed back, arguing that his client had the interests of the city at heart, had “lived and breathed Compton” and had a “sterling reputation of honesty and integrity in office.”
It was “objectively reasonable” for Bradley to believe that he was authorized to make use of the credit card and advances for travel, and his hotel stays and visits to the golf course were for city business, Hill said.
His expenditures were well under $5,000, the attorney added, and his client was always sure to be “conspicuous and open.”
“The charges against Mr. Bradley are false,” Hill said.
Wearing a slate-blue suit, waistcoat, white shirt and tie, Bradley looked relaxed as Hill spoke to the jurors, smiling as his attorney told them that the former mayor would take the stand to testify during his defense.
Hill pleaded with the jurors to lift the burden on his client and “restore his good name.”
Bradley told the Press-Telegram this year that he had served his three-year sentence in prison and a halfway house. Hill said in May that Bradley might do a “tiny bit of time” because he had already served the entirety of his sentence before the appeals court’s reversal.
He still faces a bar from holding public office, if convicted.
Earlier this year, Bradley captured 29 percent of the vote in an April 18 primary and made it to a run-off mayoral election, ultimately losing to Aja Brown in the June 6 general election.
Bradley said that his latest run for mayor would likely be his last.
He served from 1993 to 2001 as a self-described “gangster mayor,” a nickname that arose out of his friendships with rappers. He ran again in 2013, unsuccessfully. His last run for office came as his case was remanded to state court, allowing prosecutors to retry him.
The trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli’s courtroom in downtown LA is expected to last at least two weeks. Hill told reporters during a morning recess that he expects Bradley to take the stand next week.