The county Probation Department has recommended that San Diego City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez do public work and community service, rather than go to jail, as punishment for misusing a city credit card, courthouse sources confirmed Friday.
Martinez, who pleaded guilty last month to two felony charges, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday by Superior Court Judge Barbara Gamer. Under a plea bargain with prosecutors, he will resign from the council before sentencing.
The beleaguered councilman had faced a maximum penalty of one year in County Jail and a $20,000 fine under terms of the plea bargain. But Gamer indicated when she accepted Martinez's guilty plea that she was not inclined to jail him.
The probation report--which was filed with Gamer under seal earlier this week--recommends that Martinez be required to perform 20 days of public service work, such as roadside clean-up or washing police cars, according to sources familiar with the document. It further recommends that he perform 200 hours of community service at an organization of his choosing, the sources said.
The Probation Department also says Martinez should be required to repay the city for about $600 in non-business charges that he placed on his city-issued Visa card.
But the probation report weighs in against any jail time or fine for the councilman.
Gamer is not bound by the recommendations. She will also receive sentencing suggestions from Deputy Dist. Atty. Allan Preckel and from Martinez's court-appointed defense lawyer, Raymond Coughlan Jr. Neither lawyer would comment Friday on the probation report.
Martinez faced trial on 24 felony counts of misappropriating and falsely accounting for public funds. Prosecutors alleged that he used his city credit card to buy meals for friends and associates at which no city business was discussed, then filed false expense reports with city auditors.
Probation officers are barred from discussing their recommendations, which cannot be released by court officials until after a defendant has been sentenced.
However, David Price, a supervisor in the department's downtown San Diego office, said Friday that probation officers generally weigh many factors in making their findings. They look at an offender's prior record, his employment status, his life style and his family situation.
"If we're talking about an offense that's out of character or not representative of the life style the person's led, we're going to look at it in a little different light and give them the benefit of the doubt," Price said.
Probation officers also consider the impact on the defendant of the mere fact of being convicted of a crime. "What may appear to the public to be a lenient recommendation may also recognize the fact that a career has been lost, the economic devastation, and all the social and emotional impact the person is facing anyway," Price said.
Career-devastating convictions have not always saved politicians from jail terms, however.
An Orange County probation officer recommended that former Mayor Roger Hedgecock spend 180 days in a work-furlough program after he was convicted of perjury and conspiracy. Hedgecock ultimately was sentenced to a year in jail, although he remains free pending an appeal.