The attorney for former San Diego County Registrar of Voters Ray Ortiz, who is charged with the misappropriation of public funds, attacked the prosecution's star witness as a liar Friday and promised the jury that Ortiz would tell his side of the story.
Attorney Merle Schneidewind wasted no time in attacking Lynn Kienle in his opening statement to the jury. Kienle, vice president of Jeffries Banknote Co., has been granted immunity from prosecution; he is expected to testify that Ortiz instructed him to pay two associates for consulting work that Kienle said he does not know was ever done.
After paying several thousand dollars to Maria Caldera, 51, and Lance Gough, 32, Kienle billed San Diego County for the fees paid to the pair. Jeffries, a Los Angeles-based printing firm, was awarded a contract in 1983 to do all of the printing for the registrar's office.
Prosecutors have alleged that Ortiz, 52, instructed Kienle to submit the consulting bills to the county. Deputy Dist. Atty. Douglas Gregg said that some of the money paid to Caldera, a longtime Ortiz associate, ended up in Ortiz's private account.
On Friday, Schneidewind said that "Mr. Kienle is lying" and told jurors that he will frequently call Kienle a liar during the trial. The attorney attacked Kienle's credibility, saying that some registrars in other counties will not deal with Kienle and Jeffries because of previous problems in bills submitted by the company to public agencies.
In 1981, Ortiz canceled a contract that the registrar's office had with Jeffries when he found numerous billing errors, Schneidewind said. That cancellation cost Kienle about $100,000 in commissions, he added.
"Every time Jeffries sent a bill down, Mr. Ortiz found things wrong and sent it back," Schneidewind said. Jeffries was awarded a new $1.5-million contract in 1983 when the firm underbid its closest competitor by $500,000, he said.
Ortiz was indicted in December on 27 felony counts of grand theft, misappropriation of public funds and making false entries in public records. He is charged with stealing $7,300 from the county in six transactions between May, 1984, and July, 1986, and an additional $4,000 from Jeffries.
Kienle, who was the first witness called by the prosecution Friday, said that he lied when he told a district attorney's office investigator that Caldera was a Jeffries consultant. Kienle said that he lied because he was "intimidated" by the investigator and out of loyalty to Ortiz.
"I was being very protective of Mr. Ortiz," Kienle said. "He was our good friend and good customer."
Kienle said he met with the investigator last July 2, and later consulted a Jeffries lawyer. The lawyer then called the district attorney's office and asked for another meeting with the investigator. According to Kienle, he "answered all questions truthfully" at the second meeting.