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Robbins Gets Five-Year Sentence, $475,000 Fine : Courts: EX-state senator's term for political corruption could be reduced if he continues to be helpful to prosecutors.

May 02, 1992|PAUL JACOBS and MARK GLADSTONE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — Former state Sen. Alan Robbins was ordered Friday to serve five years in federal prison and pay $475,000 in fines and restitution--a sentence that climaxes a lengthy corruption probe of the San Fernando Valley Democrat.

Robbins, who must report to prison by June 15, was contrite and somber at his sentencing, which followed his guilty plea last December to using his Senate office as a racketeering operation to extort money and to two felony counts of income tax evasion.

"I'm fully prepared today to accept my punishment," Robbins told U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia just before the sentence was pronounced. "I always told my children, if they did something wrong, if they were punished, they had to accept it."

Under federal rules, Robbins, 49, could be released, with good behavior, in 4 1/2 years and begin a two-year probation. But his sentence could be reduced--at the request of prosecutors and with the approval of the court--if he continues to provide helpful information to prosecutors.

As part of a plea-bargain agreement secretly struck with prosecutors more than a year ago, Robbins began cooperating with federal authorities in their ongoing political corruption investigation. For at least five months, before stepping down from the Senate last November, Robbins wore a hidden recording device to aid the probe.

"Mr. Robbins has provided significant assistance to the government," U.S. Atty. George L. O'Connell told the court.

O'Connell said that if Robbins continues to be helpful to prosecutors, the government can return to court in the next 12 months and ask that Robbins' sentence be reduced.

Following the sentencing, O'Connell said he was pleased with the sentence. "I hope and I think it sends the message that even someone who is one of the most senior members of the state Senate . . . (and who) violates the law is going to go to prison."

O'Connell refused to comment on the details of Robbins' cooperation or the direction of a continuing corruption probe, which sources have told The Times is now focused on California Coastal Commissioner Mark L. Nathanson.

In earlier court statements, Robbins implicated Nathanson in an elaborate scheme beginning in June, 1987, to extort at least $238,000 from San Diego hotel developer Jack Naiman.

In an earlier court statement, Robbins said that he and Nathanson split the money extorted from the hotel developer.

As part of his sentence, Robbins must pay Naiman $225,000 of the amount, in addition to a $250,000 fine to the government.

Garcia said that Robbins would share responsibility for paying back Naiman with "anyone else charged in the future."

Naiman, who was present for the sentencing, said, "I was here to see Alan Robbins get his day in court and to get my money. I'm happy it's over."

Nathanson has not been charged and his attorney, Robert L. Shapiro, has repeatedly said that his client has done nothing improper.

At the sentencing hearing, Robbins and his attorney, Michael L. Lipman, asked that the judge recommend that the sentence be served at the federal prison camp at Lompoc so that Robbins' mother, who lives in Camarillo, could visit him more easily than at other minimum-security facilities near Boron and Las Vegas.

Garcia agreed to recommend Lompoc and also to a delay in Robbins' reporting date until mid-June instead of next week. Lipman said that Robbins needs the added time because he is recovering from knee surgery and might require a second operation because of complications.

In making the case for the delay, Lipman also said that Robbins' daughter, now a college freshman, will not be finished with her finals until June 12.

Garcia said that he was reluctant to allow a delay in carrying out the sentence, but that he agreed to go along because the prosecutors did not object.

Robbins is the third California lawmaker to be convicted of political corruption offenses in recent times. Ex-Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) was sentenced in 1990 to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for racketeering and conspiracy. Montoya is currently serving his term after getting a reversal on most of the counts he faced.

Paul B. Carpenter, a member of the State Board of Equalization convicted of extortion, attempted extortion, racketeering and conspiracy stemming from his years as a senator, was sentenced in 1990 to 12 years but last month the convictions were overturned on appeal. Prosecutors said they will retry Carpenter.

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