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Nine Witnesses Open Defense in Hedgecock Trial : Pancer Spends First Day Attempting to Discredit Prosecution's Key Witness

January 16, 1985|BARRY M. HORSTMAN | Times Staff Writer

The defense began presenting its case in Mayor Roger Hedgecock's trial Tuesday, and the mayor's attorney focused his initial efforts on seeking to discredit a key prosecution witness who testified that Hedgecock knew that financier J. David (Jerry) Dominelli was going to invest in the political consulting firm that ran his 1983 campaign.

Following 11 days of testimony from 43 witnesses, Assistant Dist. Atty. Richard D. Huffman concluded the prosecution's case Tuesday morning after the last of 121 prosecution documents were admitted as evidence in the mayor's felony perjury and conspiracy trial.

Michael Pancer, the mayor's attorney, called nine witnesses as he began the task of attempting to rebut prosecutors' allegations that Hedgecock conspired with Dominelli and his associate Nancy Hoover to illegally funnel money through the political consulting firm of Tom Shepard & Associates into Hedgecock's 1983 race.

The testimony that Pancer elicited from those witnesses was clearly designed to attempt to persuade the six-man, six-woman jury to accept the defense's viewpoint on several major points of contention in the case, including:

- Hedgecock's and Pancer's charge that investment counselor Harvey Schuster lied when he testified Monday that Hedgecock told him in November, 1981, that Dominelli was "going to invest sufficient funds" in Shepard's firm so that it would be able to run Hedgecock's 1983 campaign.

One witness, architect Gil Ontai, testified Tuesday that Schuster was "very upset" when he was not awarded a 1982 contract to develop the county's bayfront parking lots and spoke about "getting back" at then-Supervisor Hedgecock for not supporting his proposal.

- Hedgecock's overriding argument that Hoover and Dominelli helped fund Shepard's firm primarily because they wanted to help Shepard start his own business, not because they were trying to elect Hedgecock as mayor.

Terry Bianco, a consultant, testified that Dominelli and Hoover considered buying Seacoast Magazine in North County in the fall of 1981 and making Shepard the magazine's publisher. The former La Jolla investment executives ultimately decided not to proceed with that plan, and Shepard opened his consulting business several months later.

That testimony demonstrates, Hedgecock said after Tuesday's court session, that Hoover and Dominelli were "searching for something for Tom to do"--a search that led to the creation of Tom Shepard & Associates.

- The defense's argument that Shepard's firm--contrary to prosecutors' suggestions--did much more than merely work on Hedgecock's campaign in the early months after the consulting business was founded in January, 1982.

Robert Meadow, one of Shepard's former partners, testified that the firm sent out dozens of letters attempting to solicit business during its first six months, characterizing those activities as being "not unlike" those of any new company. Reiterating testimony he gave when called as a prosecution witness last week, Meadow added that the firm's leaders "felt very fortunate" to obtain the Hedgecock campaign contract in August, 1982, believing that the firm's reputation and ability to attract clients would be significantly enhanced if it helped Hedgecock win the mayoral race.

- Pancer's contention that the prosecution inaccurately has charged that Hedgecock has received other allegedly illegal gifts from Hoover or Dominelli, including free limousine trips and a mobile telephone in his automobile. Testimony Tuesday helped Pancer refute or at least undermine some of those charges.

San Diego Police Chief William Kolender told the jury that Hedgecock did not, as a chauffeur testified last week, travel to Los Angeles to attend a 1982 dinner honoring President Reagan in a limousine paid for by Hoover. Kolender was one of about 10 guests on that trip. On a related matter, Claire Felson, who said that she and Hoover have been friends since college, testified that Hedgecock was one of the passengers in an August, 1982, limousine trip to the Del Mar Race Track, but emphasized that she, not Hedgecock, organized the trip.

And John Woodward, a former Shepard employee who acted as Hedgecock's driver during the 1983 campaign, testified that he paid for the installation and repair of the mobile phone, and was later reimbursed by Shepard's firm. Hedgecock argues that Hoover loaned him the telephone and that he returned it after the campaign.

Following the opening day of his side of the case, Hedgecock said he felt "terrific," adding that he believes the testimony shows that "a lot of this stuff has been blown way out of proportion."

Huffman 'Unimpressed'

Huffman countered, "Respectfully, I'm greatly unimpressed by this testimony." The prosecutor also noted that Tuesday's Superior Court session began with Judge William L. Todd Jr. denying Pancer's motion to dismiss the charges against Hedgecock--a routine motion filed at the conclusion of the prosecution's case that is rarely granted in major trials.

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