SACRAMENTO — A lawyer for lobbyist Clayton R. Jackson on Thursday claimed that former state Sen. Alan Robbins exerted power over his client that was "the functional equivalent of a rapist over his victim."
In his closing arguments in Jackson's corruption trial, lawyer Donald H. Heller described that stranglehold as being so strong in 1991 that it kept Jackson from telling authorities he believed that he was the victim of a Robbins "shakedown."
Heller conceded that in hindsight it was "a big mistake" not to have informed the U.S. attorney, but Jackson was worried that Robbins would kill legislation of importance to Jackson's clients unless he appeared to be going along with a demand for $250,000.
"This guy (Robbins) was mind-raping Clay Jackson with his power," Heller told a federal jury that has been hearing evidence against the veteran lobbyist and former state Sen. Paul B. Carpenter for the past six weeks.
A federal grand jury in February indicted Jackson, 50, and Carpenter, 65, relying heavily on evidence supplied by Robbins, who in 1991 pleaded guilty to corruption charges, resigned his seat and agreed to wear a hidden recording device as part of his agreement to cooperate with the government.
Jackson, whose lobbying firm last year earned more than $2 million, is accused of racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy. Carpenter, whose Senate district straddled Orange and Los Angeles counties, is charged with conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Much of the government's case hinges on Robbins' testimony that Jackson and Carpenter were part of an illegal scheme to launder $78,000 in campaign contributions to the Van Nuys Democrat for his personal use.
The case against Jackson also rests on secret tapes that Robbins made of conversations with Jackson--conversations that prosecutors contend show that the lobbyist offered the lawmaker a $250,000 bribe in exchange for a legislative favor.
Heller and Carpenter's lawyer, Charles F. Bloodgood, made a last-ditch effort to persuade the jury of their clients' innocence. Both used charts and blowups of jury instructions and testimony to buttress their contention that Robbins is an unreliable and untruthful witness.
Jurors sat impassively, even when Heller was telling them that his favorite musical is "Chorus Line" and that one of its hit songs, "What I Did for Love," should be rephrased for Robbins' role in the case to "What I Would Do for Money."
Heller reminded the jury that Robbins, who is completing a two-year federal prison sentence, will soon have access to his personal fortune plus a possible $1 million real estate commission stemming from a transaction in Marina del Rey.
"In Alan Robbins, you have the coalescence of intellect, cunning, amorality and evil motivated by getting the key to his cell" so he can get out of prison quicker, Heller told jurors and spectators, including a score of Jackson supporters.
Carpenter's lawyer, Bloodgood, also targeted Robbins for harsh criticism, saying the government forced the former lawmaker into the position of having to develop evidence against Carpenter and Jackson.
"If I do it, it's called extortion," Bloodgood said. "If the FBI does it, it's called cooperation."
Bloodgood also maintained that even if Jackson had bribed Robbins on legislation dating back to 1985, prosecutors had failed to tie those ill-gotten funds to Carpenter.
Projecting a blowup of Robbins' testimony on a screen in front of the jury, Bloodgood noted that the ex-lawmaker admitted on the stand that he never told Carpenter the contributions would wind up being used for Robbins' benefit.
"In order for my client to be guilty, it's got to be dirty money and he's got to know that it's dirty," Bloodgood asserted.
But in a final rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Atty. John Vincent dismissed defense arguments. "The defense in this case makes absolutely no sense," he said. He implored jurors: "Do not leave your common sense at the jury door."
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia will give jurors their final instructions and they will begin deliberating.
Times staff writer Cynthia H. Craft contributed to this story.