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Corruption Trial Pits Close Friends: Moriarty and Young

January 11, 1987|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

The public corruption trial that resumes this week in Los Angeles federal court focuses on the shady side of Sacramento politics and pits two close friends against each other--former fireworks manufacturer W. Patrick Moriarty and his one-time protege, Bruce E. Young.

They first met in 1971 while Young was working as a Kiwanis Club volunteer at one of Moriarty's Red Devil Fireworks stands in Orange County, Moriarty said last week as the trial opened. Over the years, according to associates, they had a "father-and-son" relationship.

But prosecutors contend that the relationship had its roots in politics and money. Elected to the California Assembly in 1976, Young later helped promote Moriarty's fireworks and real estate interests. According to federal prosecutors, Moriarty's help to Young was financial.

The two men met again last week as Moriarty, 55, now serving a seven-year prison term for fraud and corruption, testified for three days as the chief government witness in a 28-count mail fraud case charging Young with concealing income from Moriarty and a cable television firm.

"I feel bad enough about the prosecution," Moriarty said. "I dislike testifying in this case because of Mr. Young. I particularly dislike saying anything that might hurt him."

Nonetheless, Moriarty--who conceded that he hopes that his testimony will gain him an early release from prison--outlined a series of business dealings between the two men that paralleled Young's rise in the Legislature and Moriarty's interest in passage of pro-fireworks legislation.

Focus on Investment

Much of Moriarty's testimony focused on an offer he made in 1979 to help invest $50,000 for Young, promising him only at that time that he would look for a "suitable" investment. Two years later, Moriarty said, he told Young that the investment was in a Baldwin Hills condominium project and that it would double his money--a promise Moriarty never kept.

Prosecutors said that Moriarty ultimately repaid Young for most of his original investment in a variety of ways but Young's lawyers plan to argue that Moriarty cheated Young out of the money.

Moriarty testified that in 1981 he made similar "2-for-1" offers and lived up to them with other investors--including Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles), who was then Assembly majority leader. He helped Roos obtain a $50,000 bank loan secured by his campaign funds, Moriarty said, and later paid him $100,000 on the investment.

Moriarty said that he was anxious to meet with Roos in 1981 and that Young helped recruit Roos as an investor. By that time, Moriarty had decided to push for legislation that would have prevented California cities from outlawing so-called "safe-and-sane" fireworks--the non-explosive type sold by his Red Devil company.

The pro-fireworks legislation narrowly passed both houses of the state Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 1982. It would have permitted Moriarty's Pyrotronics Corp. to operate in such major cities as Los Angeles and would have doubled his business from $8 million to $16 million a year, Moriarty testified.

While focusing primarily on his business dealings with Young, Moriarty's testimony was sprinkled with references to California politicians--including Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco)--who was named in a 1982 letter from Young to Moriarty which requested $18,500 in political contributions for six Democratic Assembly candidates.

The money was later passed along to other candidates but Moriarty never was identified in public reports as the source of the money.

Brown Rebuts Allegation

Moriarty said Young told him that Brown had asked Young to request the contributions, but Moriarty was not asked whether Brown actually did make the request. While Moriarty said outside the courtroom that he assumed that Brown knew about it, Brown's response in Sacramento was that he had no recollection of such a request.

The Young trial, expected to last a month in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian, has been watched closely by Sacramento politicians because of what it might reveal about the continuing Moriarty investigation, which is now focusing on a number of California politicians--including Roos.

The investigation--which started in 1983 as a probe by the Orange County district attorney's office--already has led to the convictions of 11 former local politicians, bankers and Moriarty aides linked to the ex-millionaire's many political and real estate ventures.

Orange County authorities sought the help of the U.S. attorney's office as the investigation grew, and the probe is now headed by Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard E. Drooyan and Chief Assistant Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi, who has been appointed a special federal prosecutor to help with the case.

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