Former Norwalk Assemblyman Bruce E. Young, once one of the most powerful members of the California Legislature, was found guilty by a federal jury Tuesday of five counts of mail fraud for concealing outside earnings while a legislator and laundering campaign funds to other politicians.
However, Young was acquitted of 23 other counts charging that he illegally received consulting payments from political corruption figure W. Patrick Moriarty and a Los Angeles cable television company while championing legislation benefiting their interests.
The split verdict in the complex federal fraud case against Young, the first legislative figure in California to be convicted in a political corruption scandal in more than 30 years, was reached Tuesday afternoon after eight hours of jury deliberations that started Monday.
Young's lawyers, George Walker and Alan Dressler, immediately denounced the verdict as "internally inconsistent," saying they plan to appeal the decision and to ask U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian for a new trial before Young's scheduled sentencing on March 17.
"I don't think there's any question the verdict was inconsistent," Walker said. "I will tell you this: It strikes fear in the hearts of all those legislators back in Sacramento. This will cause a major tightening of legislators' private business activities. All the legislators with outside employment are going to have to look hard and heavy at this case."
Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard E. Drooyan, who prosecuted the case, said he was "very pleased" with the verdict and added that the government is continuing its investigation of other California political figures linked to Moriarty, the former Orange County fireworks manufacturer now serving a seven-year prison term on corruption charges.
Young, 40, is the 11th defendant to be convicted in 12 government prosecutions resulting from the ongoing Moriarty probe, and he is the highest-ranking former elected official to be found guilty of corruption in connection with Moriarty's widespread efforts to influence state politics.
Once the assistant majority leader of the Assembly, Young was chairman of the powerful Assembly Transportation Committee and enjoyed a reputation as one of the more successful political fund-raisers in the Legislature. Citing personal reasons, he decided not to seek relection in 1984 after his name was linked to the Moriarty case.
As he entered Tevrizian's courtroom to await announcement of the jury's decision, Young appeared more solemn than at any point during the monthlong trial. With him was his wife, Karen, who sat quietly, eyes shut and hands folded prayerfully as the jurors filed into the jury box.
Young, a Democrat who served in the Assembly from 1976 to 1984, had earlier vowed to hold a news conference after the verdict to denounce the government's failure to prosecute any Republican legislators in connection with the Moriarty probe, but after the verdict, agitated at the results, he declined to comment.
"I think it sucks, that's what I think," his wife said.
The maximum possible sentence Young could receive on the five mail fraud counts is 25 years in prison. Actual sentences in the Moriarty cases so far, however, have ranged from three months to seven years.
Tevrizian thanked the jurors for the verdict and called the jury the most "conscientious" group he had seen in a dozen years as a state and federal judge.
"This was a trial that had the Legislature up and down the state looking over their shoulder," the judge said. "I think justice was done in this case."
Outside the courtroom, as Young and his wife hastily slipped away from reporters, U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner joined Drooyan and Chief Assistant Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi, a special federal prosecutor in the Moriarty investigation, in hailing the verdict as a victory for the government.
"I don't view it as any setback that the jury acquitted him on some of the counts," Bonner said. "They convicted on enough counts to give us an appropriate range in terms of sentencing, and the conviction assists the ongoing Moriarty investigation simply because it puts the Young case behind us."
Basis of Indictment
The first two counts in the 28-count mail fraud indictment against Young handed down last August charged him with failing to report outside income in 1981 and 1982 in annual statements of economic interest required by California law.
Young, who operated a consulting firm called Young Thinking Inc., while serving in the Legislature, also was accused of 16 mail fraud counts for failing to report his use of a leased Ford Bronco provided by Moriarty while crusading for legislation that would have legalized Moriarty's "safe-and-sane" Red Devil fireworks throughout the state.