Two powerful state senators told a federal jury Tuesday of a crusade by former Assemblyman Bruce E. Young for pro-fireworks legislation in 1981 and 1982, but described his political tactics as typical of Sacramento lobbying efforts.
Although Senate Majority Leader Barry Keene (D-Benicia) and President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) were called as prosecution witnesses, Young's lawyers contended that their testimony was actually helpful to Young's defense in the 28-count political corruption case.
"They might as well be defense witnesses," said defense attorney George Walker. "Their testimony today was that Bruce Young did nothing they know of that every other legislator doesn't do when campaigning for a bill for one of his constituents."
Keene, Roberti and Assemblyman Norm Waters (D-Plymouth) were called as government witnesses to establish that Young actively lobbied for a fireworks bill during a time when he was working as a political consultant to fireworks manufacturer W. Patrick Moriarty, now serving a seven-year prison term on corruption charges.
Young, 40, a Democratic assemblyman from Norwalk from 1976 to 1984, is charged with 28 counts of mail fraud for allegedly failing to report income from Moriarty and a cable television firm, Falcon Communications, while a member of the Legislature.
Under questioning from the prosecution, Keene said he had only a vague recollection of two conversations with Young during the campaign for passage of the bill and portrayed Young's activities on behalf of the legislation as routine political conduct.
"He expressed in some way an interest in this bill and an importance to the bill," Keene said. "I didn't attach anything unusual to that because it's fairly common."
Under cross-examination by Walker, Keene, who voted for the fireworks bill, added that there is "nothing unusual" about Assembly members lobbying senators for passage of bills they carried on the Assembly floor.
At one point, U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian interrupted the questioning to ask Keene about his understanding of state "conflict of interest" laws.
"What about when a member of the Legislature is receiving undisclosed support?" the judge asked. "Do you have an opinion if that is conflict of interest?"
Keene, a lawyer, answered, "I don't know, your honor, if under current law it would be defined as such."
The exchange between Tevrizian and Keene was hailed outside the courtroom by Walker.
"I think it was interesting to note that the judge asked a hypothetical question similar to Mr. Young's situation, and Sen. Keene didn't know the answer," Walker said. "It's always after the fact that they find out if there was some violation or not."
Following Keene on the witness stand was Waters, a cattle rancher north of Sacramento who said he voted for the fireworks bill after Young asked for his support.
"The bill didn't mean much to me or my district," Waters said, adding that he would have voted for the bill even if Young had not asked for his support.
Meeting With Moriarty
Roberti, who opposed the fireworks legislation, testified that Young arranged a meeting with Moriarty in an effort to convince Roberti that the bill was needed. Roberti said Moriarty failed to persuade him and he continued to oppose the bill, although it eventually passed the Senate before being vetoed by then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.
As the legislators testified, Tevrizian remarked at one point that the "bottom line" in the Young trial is that the Legislature is "going to have to take another look at campaign funding and campaign spending" in California.
Commenting on the judge's remark after testifying, Roberti told reporters: "Everybody's in favor of reform. The question is how you go about it. . . . You don't pass legislation relative to one specific case."