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Moore Admits Guilt in Compton Extortion Case

November 17, 1994|RON RUSSELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former Compton City Councilwoman Patricia Moore, who gained national prominence as an outspoken advocate of African American issues, has pleaded guilty to extortion and failing to file an income tax return, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Moore, 46, a key figure in a federal probe of political corruption in Compton, pleaded guilty to a single count of extorting $9,100 in November, 1991, from a representative of a company that wanted to build a state-of-the-art trash incinerator in the southeast Los Angeles County city, Assistant U. S. Atty. John M. Potter said.

The extortion count, a felony, carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Moore's plea to failing to file a federal tax return in 1992 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Moore is the second former Compton official to either be indicted or admit wrongdoing as part of the five-year federal probe.

Congressman Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton) was indicted in August on charges that he solicited and accepted bribes from a businessman who had promoted the incinerator project and hid the money from the Internal Revenue Service while serving as Compton's mayor in 1991 and 1992. Tucker has proclaimed his innocence.

Potter declined to comment on whether Moore has agreed to testify against Tucker or whether prosecutors will recommend leniency for her as part of the plea-bargain arrangement.

However, Carl E. Douglas, one of Tucker's attorneys, said that "all the signs appear to point to" Moore's being a "key witness for the prosecution" when Tucker goes to trial in February.

As part of their investigation, authorities have seized documents from a dozen city departments and subpoenaed the campaign records of seven officials, including Moore, who was on the City Council when the alleged bribery occurred.

In addition, authorities are known to be examining relationships between some of those officials and several prominent developers.

In an interview, Moore declined to comment on whether she is cooperating with authorities, and appeared to express second thoughts about having pleaded guilty to the two charges.

"I've been under a lot of pressure. They were making out like they were going to try to put me in jail and throw away the key. I don't know, I'm just tired," she said, her voice trailing off.

Moore entered the pleas before U. S. Dist. Judge Consuelo B. Marshall on Monday, even though federal prosecutors did not make the announcement until Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Moore expressed irritation that the plea arrangement had been made public. "(The prosecutors) told me there wouldn't be a press release," she said. "I feel betrayed by them."

Moore's attorney, Paul Potter of Pasadena, said his client made the plea in the hope of making a fresh start in her life.

"She's young, she's bright, and she's done some positive things," he said. "I think her hope is that she will now be able to put all this turbulence behind her."

John Potter, the federal prosecutor, refused to identify the person from whom Moore admitted extorting money. But sources have told The Times that it was San Gabriel Valley businessman John Macardican, who triggered the federal probe after complaining that Compton officials had solicited him for bribes in connection with the incinerator project.

These sources say that besides the incident in which Moore has admitted extorting the money, investigators have video and audiotapes of other meetings in which Moore accepted or discussed bribes.

Moore pleaded guilty to failing to file a federal tax return for 1992, even though she earned income and owed federal income taxes for that year, prosecutors said.

Moore and Tucker were part of a City Council majority that in July, 1992, approved an exclusive negotiating agreement for Macardican's company to develop the incinerator. After the vote, Macardican never pursued the project. He formally withdrew his proposal earlier this year.

Once an aide to former Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally, Moore was elected to the City Council in 1989 after organizing demonstrations for gun control after the drive-by shooting of a 2-year-old. She gave up her seat in 1993 to make an unsuccessful run for mayor.

Her outspokenness led to her appearance twice on the "Nightline" and once on the "MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour" television programs and made her a lightning rod for controversy.

After a judge sentenced grocer Soon Ja Du to five years probation in 1991 for killing 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, a black customer in her store, Moore told a phalanx of reporters, photographers and television cameras, "There is no justice for African Americans in this country."

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