SACRAMENTO — A U.S. District court judge has unsealed a document showing how a 1988 search of a legislative aide's Capitol office turned up files apparently linking campaign contributions and legislation that helped lead to the indictment of Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) on political corruption charges.
The aide, Karin Watson, is expected to be the star witness against Nolan and Sen. Frank Hill of Whittier, the first Republican lawmakers to be indicted in the FBI's ongoing political corruption probe.
Nolan was unavailable for comment, but his lawyer, Ephraim Margolin, said the affidavit does not contain evidence "that Pat did anything wrong." Hill has denied wrongdoing.
Documents found in Watson's office and comments she made during the Aug. 24, 1988, search reveal new details of the case against Nolan.
FBI agent James J. Wedick, who signed the affidavit, reviewed Watson's papers and, according to the 5-year-old document, uncovered a light-brown file folder marked "banking," related to a hotly contested measure by then-Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) that opened up California to out-of-state banks.
Inside the file was a legislative score card, linking lawmakers, their votes and contributions, apparently from Chase Manhattan Bank, Wedick said in the affidavit.
Wedick asked Watson whether the documents "did not appear to show a connection between legislation, voting and money, and Watson said it did," according to his unsealed affidavit released late Friday.
Two of the six racketeering acts cited last April by the grand jury that indicted Nolan relate to the interstate banking measure.
The indictments of Nolan and Hill stem from an undercover FBI operation in which agents posing as Southern businessmen sought support for a bill that would have helped a bogus company build a shrimp processing plant near Sacramento. The probe surfaced after FBI agents simultaneously raided several Capitol offices.
During the search of Nolan's suite, Watson's office was checked and she admitted "that she probably broke the law with respect to accepting money in exchange" for help on the shrimp bill, according to the affidavit.
Subsequently, Watson pleaded guilty to extorting $12,500 for her Assembly Republican bosses from an undercover agent and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Even as the Capitol search proceeded on Aug. 24, Watson checked with Nolan before allowing agents to continue going through her papers.
During the search of Watson's office, FBI agents found a file that focused on Assembly Speaker Willie Brown's bill imposing new deadlines on banks for clearing their customers' checks, which was backed by Citicorp, the nation's largest bank. Inside was a memo from Watson to Nolan outlining a political strategy on the measure.
"I believe this is one of our rare opportunities to stick it to Citicorp for their lack of support for Reps (Republicans)," Watson advised Nolan, according to the affidavit. "Because of Citicorp's $11,000 contribution to you last year you should play this as the good guy up against impossible odds. Ross (Republican Assemblyman Ross Johnson of Placentia) wants to be the bad guy (I talked to him)."
A third racketeering act charged against Nolan is that he used his office to solicit bribes in connection with Brown's bill.
As investigators located potentially damaging material during the search, Wedick apparently sought to ensure that any documents found in Watson's office were legally covered by a sweeping 108-page affidavit. So, in the early hours of Aug. 25, Wedick signed a second, six-page affidavit to specifically justify the search of the Watson's quarters.
Judge Edward J. Garcia last month unsealed the longer affidavit and on Friday signed an order to make public the second document.