A Los Angeles assistant city attorney recently charged with perjury during an investigation of a statewide yacht theft ring has filed a workers' compensation claim alleging that she suffered job-related stress during the criminal probe.
Betsy Mogul, 40, who has been on paid sick leave since mid-February, stands to receive as much as 90% of her annual $76,669 salary should city officials choose not to dispute her disability claim.
"We've alleged that as a result of stress on the job, there's been an injury to her emotional state," Mogul's attorney, Robert Jon Sherwin, said Monday.
To ensure impartiality in the case, the City Council today is expected to select an independent law firm that will recommend what action to take on the claim Mogul filed in late January.
Mogul was transferred earlier that month from the city attorney's special operations section, which handles high-profile criminal cases, to the Department of Water and Power. The move, which Mogul has subsequently challenged, was ordered by City Atty. James K. Hahn after detectives began questioning city attorney personnel about Mogul's possible involvement in the yacht theft ring.
Authorities have alleged that the ring was orchestrated by her husband, veteran Los Angeles Police Officer William E. Leasure.
Leasure, 40, is facing charges filed last year that he and a convicted bank robber, Robert D. Kuns, stole 11 pleasure boats worth $1.5 million, refitted them and then sold them to unsuspecting buyers throughout California while collecting on insurance policies taken out on the vessels.
Leasure is also reportedly a suspect in at least two Los Angeles-area homicides.
Last month, Leasure's former partner, Officer Ralph M. Gerard, 40, was arrested in the yacht theft case, along with an independent insurance investigator from Alhambra, 55-year-old Arthur G. Smith.
Mogul was taken into custody Feb. 27 and charged with having lied to the California Department of Motor Vehicles in registering a 1971 Mercedes-Benz that she had purchased from Smith. Mogul falsely claimed that Smith was her father to avoid paying sales tax on the car, authorities have alleged. Under state law, car sales between relatives are not taxable. She is free on $1,500 bail.
Mogul's transfer to the Department of Water and Power was not intended as punishment stemming from the Leasure investigation "but that is her allegation," James H. Pearson, a senior assistant city attorney in charge of workers' compensation cases, said Monday.
"Because of the position she was in (in special operations) and because of the overall investigation (involving Leasure), as well as for the reputation and integrity of the office, it was felt that she should be reassigned," Pearson said.
Mogul filed a formal grievance over the transfer and last week met with Hahn who afterward rejected it, Pearson said.
A USC law school graduate, Mogul passed the Bar in 1972 and went to work for the city attorney two years later, records show. In 1985, she was a dark-horse candidate for city attorney, garnering 1% of the vote.
She declined to be interviewed Monday.
Mogul is the second ranking member of the city attorney's staff to seek compensation for job-related stress in recent months.
Last October, Robert Horner, Mogul's former supervisor and the No. 2 man in the city attorney's office, filed a similar workers' compensation claim. Horner, 38, suffered a mild heart attack in August, 1986, brought on by stress relating to his $84,000-a-year position as Hahn's top aide, the claim contends.
A former medical malpractice defense lawyer, Horner is a long-time friend of Hahn and his former law partner.
Los Angeles police detectives handling the Leasure case complained to their supervisors last June that Horner allegedly confronted them when they attempted to execute a search warrant at the Northridge home of Leasure and Mogul. Sources close to the investigation said that when detectives arrived, Horner became belligerent at the scene, accusing the investigators of harassing Mogul.
Word of the episode reached Police Chief Daryl F. Gates who said he telephoned Hahn to discuss the incident.
"I don't know that there was any interference," by Horner, Gates said last week. "I'd say there were some comments not considered in the spirit of cooperation. I raised that issue with Jim (Hahn), and he said he'd take care of it."
Horner could not be reached for comment Monday. However, Hahn's spokesman, Mike Qualls, said last week that Horner apologized to detectives at Mogul's home and later, at Hahn's request, went to police headquarters to reiterate his apologies.
Asked why Horner was present at Mogul's house, Qualls said, "His role was overseeing the criminal division and the special operations section. At that time, (Mogul) was supervisor of special operations. She had taken some personal leave time to deal with the situation involving her husband.
"Mr. Horner had gone up to her house that day to get a briefing on the situation and was coincidentally there when the police arrived."
Horner has been on paid disability since August, Qualls said.