In a bizarre day of unexpected accusations and courtroom twists, one defendant in the W. Patrick Moriarty public corruption case accused the FBI Monday of threatening to handcuff his 6-year-old son during a campaign of harassment and another was warned that he might be jailed for allegedly threatening to retaliate against government witnesses.
The charge of FBI harassment--denied by government officials--was made by former Democratic Assemblyman Bruce E. Young of Norwalk at a news conference on the steps of the U.S. Courthouse after Young's lawyer had denounced a 28-count federal corruption indictment as "a piece of crap" and the former lawmaker had formally pleaded not guilty to all charges.
"They threatened to have my 6-year-old son brought before a grand jury in handcuffs," Young said. "After two years of harassment, I'm somewhat relieved to have a day in court. Finally they will have to come out and fight fairly."
The warning about threatening witnesses came in another Moriarty-related case from U.S. District Judge Ferdinand Fernandez, who first postponed the scheduled sentencing of convicted Carson City Councilman Walter J. (Jake) Egan, then disclosed that he was "distressed" at receiving letters from some Carson city officials suggesting that Egan had made threats against them.
"If what these letters charge is true, it's a situation that cannot be tolerated," Fernandez said, ordering a government investigation into the charges. "I don't know if these people are motivated by politics or fear, but if he has been threatening people, he is going to sit out these proceedings at our hotel at Terminal Island."
While neither the judge nor federal prosecutors disclosed the identities of the letter writers, Egan's lawyer, Robert B. Gaunt, said the letters had been mailed to the judge last week by former Carson Mayor Kay Calas, Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt and Carson Treasurer Mary Louise Custer.
Calas declined to discuss the letters and Custer could not be reached for comment. While DeWitt said it was "inappropriate" to discuss the details of her letter, she added she was concerned about her personal safety.
"There is a genuine concern. I have contacted the Sheriff's Department," she said, declining to elaborate.
Gaunt, meanwhile, denied that the letters contained any threats and described the allegations against Egan as a "rehash of things 10 years ago."
Egan, 45, who was found guilty July 12 on a dozen counts of fraud and extortion in connection with his past association with Moriarty, said he had copies of the letters in his pocket but refused to show them to reporters.
"This stuff is garbage," he said. "You are witnessing one of the most vicious attacks in history. I made no threats against anybody. I'm a little more intelligent than that."
While Egan was denying the accusations made against him, he succeeded in postponing his sentencing until an Oct. 27 hearing set by Fernandez because of yet another accusation by another figure in the Moriarty case.
That charge was made against Moriarty himself in another letter to Fernandez from Richard Raymond Keith, who wrote to the judge last week that he wanted to inform him "of a serious miscarriage of justice" that had occurred during the Egan trial.
Keith, a former Moriarty associate now serving a four-year prison term, told the judge of an alleged conversation with Moriarty that took place when both were in custody at a Garden Grove halfway house while testifying as witnesses in the Egan case.
According to Keith's letter, he suggested to Moriarty that the extortion charges against Egan were phony and that the Carson councilman had never threatened either Keith or Moriarty. He then quoted Moriarty as saying:
"They write the script, you just say what they tell you. . . . Look, I just testified the way they told me."
Fernandez opened his sentencing hearing Monday afternoon by saying it was obvious that a postponement was needed to study the veracity of Keith's allegations, and both sides agreed to set the hearing for Oct. 27.
The judge said it is possible Egan might also be sentenced on that date if it is determined that the charge by Keith is untrue.
Jan Lawrence Handzlik, Moriarty's attorney, denied outside the courtroom that there had been any perjury by his client, adding: "Mr. Moriarty feels any suggestion by Keith that he lied is preposterous."
The charges and countercharges in the Egan case followed the earlier arraignment of Young, 40, who retired from the Legislature in 1984 at the beginning of the Moriarty investigation and is now a successful Sacramento lobbyist.
U.S. Magistrate Ralph J. Geffen assigned Young's case to U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian and set a trial date for Nov. 4. Young; his wife, Karen, and his lawyer, Donald E. Heller of Sacramento, then proceeded to the courthouse steps for their news conference.