Federal prosecutors Friday closed the books on the W. Patrick Moriarty political corruption scandal, the most extensive investigation of California elected officials in the last 30 years.
"Given the difficulties in developing evidence and prosecuting political corruption cases, this investigation was extraordinarily successful," said U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner, in announcing the end of the 4-year inquiry.
All told, 11 men--including Moriarty, local government officials, a banker and a former legislator--were convicted of bribery, fraud and other charges.
Bonner called it "one of the most significant and far-reaching political corruption cases ever prosecuted in California."
But the Moriarty case never penetrated the top echelons of political power in Sacramento, as many former Moriarty associates and law enforcement officials had initially anticipated.
The former Anaheim fireworks manufacturer provided important testimony that helped win a broad range of local government convictions, but some of those closest to the case say Moriarty stopped frustratingly short of providing evidence against top-level targets.
The most prominent political figure convicted in the case was former Assemblyman Bruce Young (D-Norwalk), accused of five counts of mail fraud for laundering campaign funds and concealing the source of political contributions.
Young hopes to overturn his conviction on the basis of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that severely limits the use of mail-fraud statutes in political corruption cases.
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) and former Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bruce Nestande, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for lieutenant governor last year, were investigated, but no charges were filed.
At its height, the investigation spurred calls for reform of California's campaign finance laws and caused consternation among legislative leaders, as disclosures mounted about Moriarty's providing prostitutes to elected officials and donating and laundering more than $150,000 in campaign funds to win approval of a 1982 fireworks bill that would have benefited his Anaheim-based fireworks company, Pyrotronics Inc.
But on Friday, an aide of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) issued this statement for Brown: "I told you guys three years ago I didn't think it was much more than a newspaper story."
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) was not available for comment.
Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard E. Drooyan said federal prosecutors were hampered by provisions of state law that allow legislators to have outside business dealings with individuals or organizations that also have business with the Legislature.
Young, convicted on five counts of mail fraud, was acquitted on 23 counts relating to his outside business dealings with Moriarty, who had been pushing fireworks legislation with Young's help.
Drooyan said: "We are a very large state. (Being a legislator) is a full-time job, and yet the system permits them (legislators) to have an outside business that can be in conflict with their official duties. The existence of those provisions of the code, I think, creates problems for prosecutors."
Moriarty's level of cooperation after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail fraud was also a continuing issue in the investigation. Prosecutors complained in a court document that Moriarty had been "somewhat reluctant to cooperate completely" because of his close relationships with some of the key targets of the investigation.
But Drooyan, the chief federal prosecutor in the case, and Michael R. Capizzi, the Orange County deputy district attorney who was co-prosecutor, said Moriarty provided investigators with a large amount of information and testified accurately against others involved in the scandal.
'Only Mr. Moriarty Knows'
"Does he know other things that he hasn't told us about? I don't know. Only Mr. Moriarty knows the answer to that," Drooyan said.
Jan Lawrence Handzlik, Moriarty's lawyer, insisted that Moriarty gave prosecutors "the full benefit of his knowledge in every area into which they inquired."
Further indictments in the case were not forthcoming because there was simply no evidence, Handzlik said.
Orange County investigators began the Moriarty probe in 1983 after The Times reported Moriarty's business dealings with legislators and revealed the huge amounts of money that he and associates were donating to political campaigns. In addition, investigators turned up evidence of kickbacks in Moriarty's dealings with California Canadian Bank.