Los Angeles businessman Michael R. Goland, a major pro-Israel contributor to political campaigns, was convicted in federal court Thursday on one misdemeanor count of making an illegal donation designed to help the 1986 reelection bid of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.).
But at the same time, Goland, 43, was acquitted on four other counts of conspiracy and making false statements, and the jury deadlocked on a felony false-statement count.
This was his second trial, the first having ended in a jury deadlock last July.
Sentencing on the one count on which Goland was convicted was set by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew for July 16 in Los Angeles. Goland could receive up to one year in jail and be fined up to $360,000.
According to court testimony, Goland secretly contributed $120,000 to Edward B. Vallen, the right-wing American Independent Party's candidate in the 1986 U.S. Senate race, in order to finance a last-minute advertising campaign by Vallen designed to draw votes away from Cranston's Republican opponent, Rep. Ed Zschau.
There was no evidence that Cranston knew of the plan, and the senator was never implicated in the charges of election law violation brought against Goland.
The Vallen ads financed by Goland said that Vallen was a far better conservative than Zschau and Republicans ought to vote for him. In the election returns, Vallen received 109,916 votes, about 5,000 more than the margin by which Cranston defeated Zschau.
It was only revealed later that Goland was the actual contributor, since the contributions had been funneled through a large group of other people, some of them Goland friends and associates, others recruited by third parties, and had been reported under other names.
An irony in the donations to Vallen is that many of them were initially reported as coming from orthodox Jews highly supportive of Cranston and Israel. Vallen, on the other hand, had made statements critical of "Zionists." He insisted later he had no idea of where his contributions were coming from.
Goland has been a controversial donor since waging a $1.1 million personal campaign in 1984 to defeat Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.), who was viewed as critical of Israel. He has also spent heavily on other campaigns.
Under election laws, there are no limits on what anyone can spend on an independent campaign for or against anyone. But there are limits of $2,000--$1,000 in both the primary and the general election--on donations to a candidate's campaign, and Goland's contributions to Vallen far exceeded those limits.
The jury Thursday accepted government prosecutors' contentions that Goland had made an illegal contribution, but it did not accept their contentions that he had conspired to put together the scheme and then had lied about it.
Goland's attorneys, led by Nathan Lewin of Washington, portrayed him as having been led astray by inept campaign consultants hired to arrange the matter.
After the verdict, Assistant U.S. Atty. George Newhouse, the chief prosecutor, said he was "disappointed" at the acquittals, "but we're pleased he was convicted on the one count."
Newhouse did not directly answer the question of whether the prosecution would recommend that Goland serve time in jail, saying only that his violation was a serious one and that the government would recommend "a significant sanction."
Neither Goland nor his attorneys could be reached for comment.
Earlier in the day, one of the jurors at the six-week trial was removed from the jury for undisclosed reasons. During a hearing before U.S. Dist. Judge Dickran Tevrizian, Newhouse asked that the dismissed juror, Barry Kuhnki, be ordered to report to the U.S. marshal for fingerprinting and that a juror's note that had been given to the judge also be examined for fingerprints and handwriting.
Tevrizian said the note could be examined but he denied the request that Kuhnki be fingerprinted.