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Hedgecock Resigns as Mayor, Gets Year Term : San Diego Official 'Violated the Public Trust in Onerous Way,' Judge Says of Election Funds Case

December 11, 1985|BARRY M. HORSTMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — In a dramatic, rapid-paced conclusion to what he himself called "the country's longest-running political soap opera," Mayor Roger Hedgecock resigned Tuesday and was sentenced to one year in county custody after losing his bid to overturn his felony conviction for campaign law violations.

Saying that Hedgecock "violated the public trust in an onerous, onerous way" by accepting tens of thousands of dollars in illegal 1983 campaign donations, Superior Court Judge William L. Todd Jr. sentenced Hedgecock late Tuesday afternoon, shortly after rejecting the mayor's bid for a new trial based on allegations of jury tampering.

Todd, who also fined Hedgecock $1,000 and placed him on three years' probation, allowed Hedgecock to remain free on his own recognizance pending the outcome of his appeal of his 13-count conspiracy and perjury conviction. One of the terms of Hedgecock's probation is that he not seek public office during the three-year period.

Longer Term Rejected

Although Todd termed Hedgecock's conduct "reprehensible in every sense of the word," the judge rejected Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles Wickersham's recommendation that Hedgecock be sentenced to a three-year state prison term and a $75,000 fine. Todd said that "punishment has already been received and accepted" by Hedgecock through his loss of office and public embarrassment.

In asking for Todd's mercy, Hedgecock explained that he and his family "have suffered as public a humiliation, as public a branding . . . as possibly could be imagined" throughout nearly two years of investigation and trials stemming from his personal and campaign finances.

"We have suffered financially to the point of being broke to defend me against these charges," Hedgecock added. Asking that he be allowed to "continue working . . . for the citizenry" of San Diego, Hedgecock requested that he be placed on probation and allowed to serve in a work-release program designed to benefit the homeless.

A probation report prepared by the Orange County Probation Department--which was asked to handle the matter because Hedgecock had jurisdiction over the local probation department while serving as a county supervisor--had recommended that Hedgecock be placed in a work-release program for six months and placed on three years' probation.

Less than an hour before he was sentenced and shortly after Todd's rejection of his motion for a new trial, Hedgecock resigned as mayor of California's second-largest city, a post that he has held since winning a special May, 1983, election to select a successor to the former mayor, Pete Wilson, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1982. Had he not stepped down, Hedgecock would have been ousted from office at the moment sentence was imposed by Todd.

In an impromptu news conference outside the courtroom, Hedgecock invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln. "Some years ago, a great American at the moment of a particularly bitter defeat, said that 'it hurts too much to laugh, but I'm too old to cry.' And that's the way I feel at this moment," he said.

Loyal Following

Hedgecock, who retained an intense following despite his legal problems, received applause from dozens of spectators in the courthouse hallway after he completed his resignation speech by encouraging "those who would aspire to follow me" to pursue his "great dream that San Diego in fact could become America's finest city."

The scene inside the courtroom also was filled with drama, particularly during Hedgecock's request for a moderate sentence, in which he said that he was "personally shattered" but accepted the jury's guilty verdict. Throughout Hedgecock's remarks, his father, Les Hedgecock, put his arm around and comforted the former mayor's wife, Cindy, who frequently wiped tears from her eyes.

Earlier, after a four-hour hearing, Todd denied Hedgecock's motion for a new trial, rejecting two jurors' sworn allegations that a court bailiff tampered with Hedgecock's jury during deliberations.

The two jurors' affidavits alleged that bailiff Al Burroughs Jr. frequently talked with the jurors about the case and the progress in their deliberations and told them an anecdote about another case dealing with the crucial legal definition of "reasonable doubt."

Saying that the bailiff "shouldn't have told the jury anything" and that Burroughs' remarks "prevented (Hedgecock) from receiving a fair, impartial jury," Hedgecock attorney Oscar Goodman argued that Hedgecock's conviction should be reversed "to preserve the integrity of this court."

Wickersham, however, argued that there was "not one scintilla of evidence" that Burroughs' conduct had influenced the jurors' deliberations, adding that awarding Hedgecock a new trial "would be a tragedy."

Accuracy Questioned

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