SAN DIEGO — Appearing relaxed and often turning to address the jury directly, Mayor Roger Hedgecock took the stand in his own defense for the first time Tuesday in his felony perjury and conspiracy trial.
During his nearly one hour of testimony, Hedgecock mainly reiterated points made earlier in the trial by other defense witnesses as he described his relationship with political consultant Tom Shepard and former investment executive Nancy Hoover--two of the three people with whom prosecutors allege Hedgecock conspired to funnel illegal contributions to his 1983 campaign.
Former La Jolla financier J. David (Jerry) Dominelli is the fourth alleged co-conspirator in the case and, like Shepard and Hoover, will be tried separately on the charges later.
Planned to Leave
Under questioning from defense attorney Michael Pancer, the mayor, using a conversational tone and smiling frequently, sought to rebut a handful of the prosecution's major charges, most notably the allegation that Shepard's firm was, from its inception in January, 1982, little more than a vehicle to launder illegal contributions to Hedgecock's 1983 campaign.
The mayor testified that in December, 1981, Shepard, at that time an aide to then-county Supervisor Hedgecock, told him that he planned to leave his county position to start a political consulting firm with financial support from Hoover. Hedgecock, who will continue his testimony today, told the jury that he was "delighted" that his friend was going to have an opportunity to start his own business.
The time period specified by Hedgecock is critical, because a key prosecution witness, investment counselor Harvey Schuster, testified last week that Hedgecock had told him in November, 1981, that he knew that Dominelli "was going to invest sufficient funds" in Tom Shepard & Associates so that the firm would be able to run Hedgecock's 1983 campaign.
'Not a Certainty'
Hedgecock has consistently denied knowing that Dominelli invested in Shepard's firm and has argued that Hoover's name was not even mentioned as a possible investor until after the time that Schuster claims to have discussed the subject with Hedgecock. The mayor also has charged that Schuster lied in his testimony, because of his anger over not being awarded a lucrative 1982 contract to develop bayfront property owned by the county.
Emphasizing that a mayoral campaign was "not a certainty" when Shepard began his firm, Hedgecock noted that the City Council did not schedule the special May, 1983, race until after former Mayor Pete Wilson's victory in the November, 1982, U.S. Senate race.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Richard Huffman has stressed that Shepard's firm did work on Hedgecock's behalf before August, 1982, when Hedgecock's campaign committee signed a contract with the firm. However, Hedgecock, bolstering the earlier testimony of several of Shepard's former employees, testified that any pre-August, 1982, work was "very definitely done on a volunteer basis."
There had been intense speculation over whether Hedgecock would testify in the trial since the defense began its case last week. As late as Monday afternoon, Hedgecock and his attorneys said they had not decided whether the mayor would take the stand.
At the end of Tuesday's court session, Pancer said he encouraged Hedgecock not to testify, because "there was absolutely nothing he had to respond to." Pancer added, however, that Hedgecock persuaded him that it was important for him to take the stand to "speak to the jury . . . with his own lips under oath" about the case.