Skip to comments.CA: Leland Wong guilty on 14 felony counts (including bribery)
Posted on 07/25/2008 9:03:08 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
Capping the highest-profile case to come out of City Hall "pay-to-play" corruption investigations in the administration of former Mayor James Hahn, former commissioner Leland Wong was convicted Thursday of more than a dozen felony charges, including bribery, in connection with taking $100,000 from a company doing business with the city.
Wong, 51, was found guilty of 14 felony charges, including one count of bribery, two counts of conflict of interest, one count of perjury, seven counts of theft by embezzlement and three counts of filing false tax returns.
But the jury also acquitted Wong on six other counts of theft by embezzlement and one count of conflict of interest.
As his family gathered in the courtroom, Wong - a former commissioner on the city's Airport, Harbor and Water and Power panels - sat on the edge of his seat to hear the verdict.
As the clerk finished reading the jury's decisions, an expressionless Wong sank back in his seat. A family member nearby placed her arm around the back of a young man who appeared to be crying.
Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman called the verdict "marvelous" in a trial that included testimony by Hahn, whose administration was dogged by "pay-to-play" allegations of political contributions buying access to City Hall.
"It's everything we'd wanted," Huntsman said. "He was convicted of bribery, the most serious charge a public official can be charged with."
Huntsman called the jury, which deliberated for only one day before returning its verdict, intelligent and decisive.
The prosecutor noted that jurors rejected seven counts against Wong, giving him the benefit of the doubt when the evidence was less strong or witnesses did not testify.
And he said the jury's determination that the fees Wong claimed were for legitimate consulting work were, instead, bribes hopefully will send a strong message to other politicians looking to skirt the law.
"This should be a deterrent to other public officials," Huntsman said.
The 14 counts carry a maximum sentence of about 10 years in prison. Huntsman said he will seek more prison time for Wong than the minimum sentence of about 16 months.
After the verdict, Wong's Los Angeles attorney, Janet Levine, told the judge that Wong poses no flight risk and asked whether he could be released on his own recognizance pending sentencing Sept. 25.
"He won't flee," Levine said. "He has a wife, two kids and he's not a danger to the community. At age 51, he's lived in the community his whole life. There is no reason for the court to have any concern."
Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson noted that Wong had been extraordinarily diligent in attending all his court appearances on time and granted Levine's request.
Outside the courtroom, Wong gathered with his family but declined to comment.
Wong pleaded not guilty. His lawyer argued that the former commissioner did nothing improper and was a committed civic servant who was singled out unfairly by the political system.
The most significant allegation centered on Wong receiving $100,000 from a Taiwanese company while he was serving on the Airport Commission.
Prosecutors also said he voted on a contract for a subsidiary of the Taiwanese firm while serving on the Airport Commission.
Prosecutors said the $5,000 monthly cash payments weren't disclosed to city officials with whom the commissioner was working on deals to get a related firm, Evergreen Marine, a better lease and additional space at the port - while also negotiating to move another related firm, EVA Airways, from LAX to Ontario Airport.
But Wong's defense lawyers said the Evergreen payments were legitimate consulting fees paid to Wong to help with the port deal and there was no link to his activities as an airport commissioner.
They also argued that the fees were disclosed properly on a city ethics form and that Wong never made a secret of his activities to port officials.
After the verdict was read late Thursday, all but one juror declined to talk about their decision to acquit on some of the charges.
The man, who identified himself only as "Juror No. 9," said he thought the prosecution had used Wong as a scapegoat.
"I think he was picked on," he said. "It looked like everybody threw everything at him.
"I don't think he's a bad guy."
It’s my understanding that Jimmy Hahn has been under continual federal criminal investigation since he was LA City Attorney WAY back in 1987! His sister is a piece of work as well, her latest scam as LA City Councilperson is to provide “make-good” jobs for mobsters to keep them off the streets!
Ah! Now I understand why Teddy Kennedy isn't in jail.
Wong and his son said they wanted to be treated like the Caucasians around them, but the judge said “ Everybody knows 2 Wongs do not make a white”.
Not mentioned = democRAT
Finally, the other Hsu drops.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.