Former Los Angeles Councilman Arthur Snyder surrendered to authorities Wednesday and made a somber court appearance on charges that he conspired with business associates and relatives to funnel thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to local and state politicians.
The legendary City Hall lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, who served 18 years before stepping down in 1985, spoke only once--assuring Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk that he understood his rights. Snyder has strongly denied wrongdoing. Formal arraignment on the felony indictment for him and several others was postponed until next month.
During a brief session in another court, Judge James Bascue issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Snyder's wife, Delia Wu Snyder, who also was indicted but failed to appear. Delia Snyder has been on an extended stay in her homeland of Taiwan, according to the ex-councilman.
Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, speaking with reporters after the court session, said he hopes that the prosecution, one of the most ambitious political cases brought by the office in recent years, is "going to be a signal to others, be it lobbyists or (others) engaged in this type of activity . . . if you engage in illegal campaign contributions, you're going to be prosecuted."
He said the case, which he said he expects will go to trial, is important to the public because it touches on "how public officials conduct business (and) how influence is wielded within the county of Los Angeles."
Snyder declined to comment Wednesday, but his attorney, Mark Geragos, said there is no viable case against his client. "They shouldn't be using Art Snyder to send signals. They (aren't) on solid legal ground (and) I don't see how they are ever going to get this case to trial."
Charged along with the 62-year-old ex-councilman and his wife were: Gilbert Archuletta, Snyder's law partner; Aide Posadas, an employee in Snyder's law firm; Snyder's brother-in-law, William Wang, the former local manager of a Taiwan-based shipping operation; Wang's wife and Delia Wu Snyder's sister, Grace Wang, and Blanche Poon, another sister of Delia Snyder.
Delia Snyder has been unavailable for comment and has no attorney, according to her husband. Posadas, Grace Wang and Blanche Poon declined to comment Wednesday, as did their attorneys.
Archuletta's attorney, Brian O'Neill, denied that his client engaged in a conspiracy and said there were "structural problems" with the prosecution's case, including events that are beyond the statute of limitations. "The prosecutors have decided these guys did something bad and are trying to move law around to make . . . it look criminal."
William Wang's attorney, Robert Corbin, said his client had cooperated with investigators from the outset and was "disappointed that the district attorney asked the grand jury to return an indictment against him." Wang will "fully defend himself," he added, charging that prosecutors are inappropriately trying to elevate possible misdemeanor election law violations to felonies.
Although Ouderkirk granted Geragos' request to keep the indictment sealed until next month's arraignment, some new details emerged about the prosecutors' case against the colorful and often controversial Snyder, who has been an influential presence in local politics for nearly three decades.
A copy of the indictment reviewed by The Times alleges that Snyder, his Downtown law firm and the six others "willfully and unlawfully conspired and agreed" to violate the portion of the state election code that prohibits political donations to be made in the name of others.
Such activity is commonly called campaign money laundering, which government ethics watchdogs view as a serious violation because it conceals the true source of a candidate's financial backing and bolsters the influence of major fund-raisers and lobbyists.
Among the acts Snyder allegedly committed in furtherance of the conspiracy, according to the indictment, was to draft a plan to solicit contributions for a large Downtown commercial and residential development known as Mangrove Estates.
He also allegedly cashed a $5,000 retainer check from a client about the time some of the suspect contributions were being made.
Although the importance and context of those actions is not yet clear--nor is the full prosecution case--sources noted that acts a defendant commits as part of a conspiracy do not have to be illegal in and of themselves.
Elsewhere, the indictment alleges that Delia Snyder cashed more than $20,000 in checks and used the funds to make illegal reimbursements of political contributors. And Snyder's law firm was allegedly used as a credit reference in the check-cashing transactions, the indictment states.