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Better Late Than Never

February 23, 1986

To begin at the beginning, Ira Reiner, the district attorney of Los Angeles County, did not ask the grand jury to indict Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Los Angeles). He says he did not think he could make a case that she tried to get state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) to pull out of the Republican primary campaign for the right to challenge Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) in November.

The grand jury, with a mind of its own, did it anyway. Now Reiner has asked that the charge be dropped. Better late than never.

The D.A.'s office says that the case against Fiedler's aide, Paul Clarke will go forward. But even that could change. Until the moment that Reiner said he would not press charges against Fiedler, the chief deputy district attorney, Gilbert I. Garcetti, insisted that the case would proceed.

The Fiedler affair probably will shake public confidence in the fair administration of justice. Part of the problem is that Reiner took off on a three-week European vacation shortly after the indictment was announced, leaving Fiedler twisting slowly in the political wind. A larger part of the problem is the law itself. Its language is so broad that almost any conversation between two politicians in a crowded field could be felonious.

Then there is the question of why the grand jury ignored the district attorney's recommendation on Fiedler in the first place. Sitting on the grand jury was Richard Ferraro, a political rival of Fiedler's since the 1970s when the two were members of the Los Angeles school board. His presence is grounds for suspicion that the grand jury did not base its decision solely on the evidence but was lobbied into an indictment.

Reiner and his aides say they huddled for hours, weighing evidence and deciding that they did not have enough to get a conviction. That being the case, they should have blocked the grand jury action a long time ago.

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