Contending that she was pressured into pleading guilty to extortion and to failing to file an income tax return, aformer Compton City Councilwoman Patricia Moore asked a U.S. District Court judge Thursday to let her withdraw her pleas, accusing the government of conspiring to discredit African American elected officials.
Federal prosecutors, however, said they are prepared to bring her to trial on up to 20 counts of felony extortion for allegedly accepting $50,100 during 1991 and 1992 from a company that had sought to build a solid waste incinerator in Compton.
Prosecutors say they have hundreds of hours of video and audiotape that show Moore extorting the money on 20 separate occasions.
In the signed plea agreement, which was made public for the first time in court documents prepared for Thursday's hearing, Moore admitted extorting $9,100 from company representatives and agreed to serve in an undercover capacity in an ongoing probe of alleged political corruption in Compton. As part of the arrangement, she agreed if asked to allow authorities "to monitor and tape-record conversations with persons who are believed to be engaged in criminal conduct."
Judge Consuelo B. Marshall postponed making a decision on the matter until April 27, saying she wanted to hear more testimony from both sides.
Speaking publicly for the first time since her lawyer announced last month that she wanted out of the plea arrangement, Moore in an interview accused federal authorities of misleading her and detailed alleged "emotional, physical and sexual abuse" at the hands of a suspected federal informant.
"If I were white, this wouldn't be happening to me," said Moore, 46, who gained national prominence as an outspoken advocate of African American issues while serving on the Compton council from 1989 to 1993.
She contends that federal authorities tried to coerce her to testify against Rep. Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton), who is accused of extorting money from the same company. Moore, however, insisted that she never intended to be a key witness against Tucker at his bribery trial, scheduled for Sept. 5.
The charges against Tucker stem from the period in which he served as Compton's mayor, from 1990 to 1992. He has proclaimed his innocence.
In the interview, with her attorney, Ollie P. Manago, present, Moore expressed confidence that, if granted a trial, she will be exonerated by a jury.
"They (prosecutors) pressured me, lied to me and had me in a position where I felt I had to (enter the pleas) or else they were threatening to lock me up and throw away the key, knowing that I didn't have the funds to defend myself against the charges," she said.
In requesting to withdraw her guilty plea, Moore contends that federal prosecutors betrayed her by making public an announcement of her plea after promising to keep it confidential.
Prosecutors deny that allegation, as well as her accusations that she was pressured or coerced in any way.
To support the one felony count to which she pleaded guilty, prosecutors had shown Moore a videotape of her receiving a white envelope in November, 1991, from a man she thought was a financier trying to build the incinerator. In fact, he was an undercover FBI agent.
Asked about the tape and her admission, Moore now says that she "cannot be sure about its authenticity."
Although she acknowledged having received cash from the company's owner, San Gabriel Valley businessman John Macardican, Moore said the money was owed to her by Stan Bailey, who presented himself as a representative of the company.
Macardican sparked the federal investigation in late 1989 by complaining to the FBI that he was being solicited for bribes by Compton officials as the price for supporting the $200-million, trash-to-energy plant.
According to sources, Bailey made several overtures to Compton officials, offering cash in return for their support for the project. In July, 1992--eight months after the extortion incident to which Moore has pleaded guilty--the City Council awarded Macardican's company exclusive negotiating rights to build the incinerator. The vote was 3 to 2 with Tucker and Moore among the majority.
Moore has acknowledged having had a romantic relationship with Bailey. Several sources have identified Bailey as a federal informant. Prosecutors have declined to discuss Bailey.
Moore contends that the government used Bailey to entrap her, saying that he was "busy trying to build a case against me and others" even while proposing marriage to her in the spring of 1992.
Her allegation of sexual abuse stems from what she described as the couple's last night together, before Bailey suddenly disappeared.
She said that after going to Bailey's Long Beach condo tower for a "romantic dinner," the last thing she remembers is drinking a glass of apple cider that she now believes was spiked with a sedative.
"I woke up the next morning with my arms and legs tied to the four corners of his bed, badly bruised on the thighs and stomach, and with evidence that he had at least tried to sodomize me," she said.
She said she and Bailey made several trips to Mexico together at her expense and that after he disappeared, Macardican expressed sympathy for what had happened and volunteered to reimburse her as well as retrieve items that belonged to her from Bailey's abandoned apartment.
"Looking back on it, I see now that it was all a scam," Moore said. "They were just using me."