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Morgan's Bid a Tough Sell With County Law Enforcement

Officials with sheriff and D.A. are slow to embrace him, despite long career in the field. His role in 1992 homicide probe raises questions.

April 21, 1996|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Snubbed by peace officers in the spring primary election for county supervisor, Camarillo Councilman Michael D. Morgan is again seeking endorsements from the power brokers of Ventura County law enforcement.

But Morgan--though professionally linked to law enforcement for 25 years--may still find his candidacy a tough sell partly because of his behind-the-scenes conduct in a 1992 investigation of the death of a Ventura County millionaire.

So far, Morgan has secured no law enforcement endorsements. He is calling county prosecutor and deputy sheriff unions and courting officials such as Sheriff Larry Carpenter and Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury.

However, Bradbury said recently that despite Morgan's long career as a probation and pretrial officer, and even though both are conservative Republicans, he will not endorse Morgan in a November runoff. Nor will he endorse Morgan's opponent, Kathy Long, chief aide to retiring Supervisor Maggie Kildee.

Bradbury, along with Carpenter and much of the law enforcement establishment, supported Fillmore Mayor Roger Campbell in the March 26 primary. But Campbell finished third. And Bradbury now says he will steer away from endorsements in local races due to potential conflicts of interest.

Bradbury would not comment on Morgan's qualifications in a recent interview. But in a sworn deposition last year, the district attorney said there was "no way" he could endorse the federal court pretrial officer for the 3rd District supervisorial seat.

"He's not qualified, in my opinion," Bradbury said. "He's kind of a lightweight . . . politically, intellectually."

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Morgan, a councilman since 1980, would not discuss Bradbury's appraisal of his abilities last week except to say, "Those are opinions, those aren't facts." But in an earlier interview, he said:

"If he feels I'm not qualified, it's his option. I have a proven track history of what I am in Camarillo. I'm not going to argue with Mike."

Although Bradbury would not comment in interviews on professional differences he might have with Morgan, a Bradbury assistant complained to Morgan's federal court boss in 1992 about his involvement in the case of millionaire Donald P. Scott, who was shot to death by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy in a botched drug raid. Bradbury, who investigated the shooting because it occurred in Ventura County, found that Scott was shot in self-defense, but that the raid was not justified.

And Bradbury's sworn comments--made public recently in a wrongful-death lawsuit by Scott's survivors--reveal his feelings about the candidate.

Morgan, 49, who monitors federal defendants while they await trial or appeal a sentence, knew Scott because the 61-year-old millionaire's new wife, Frances Plante Scott, 42, was a "client" who had appealed a misdemeanor drug conviction.

In addition to the misdemeanor conviction, Frances Scott, a Texas native, had been investigated by federal agents in 1988 and 1990 regarding her "involvement in negotiations to smuggle and sell heroin," Bradbury wrote in his 1993 report on the Scott shooting. She was never charged.

But it was Morgan's unusual role in the Scott homicide investigation--as Frances Scott's alleged legal advisor and as a potential witness--that bothered local and federal investigators and Bradbury's aide.

Twelve days after Scott's slaying on Oct. 2, 1992, Morgan angered officials by showing up at the Scott ranch for the first scheduled interview with Frances Scott by Ventura County Sheriff's Department homicide investigators. According to them, he recommended that the widow not talk with the investigators until she called an attorney.

And a month later, Morgan set up a secret meeting with Bradbury at Camarillo City Hall. He told the district attorney that the raid was a mistake and that he had never seen marijuana on Scott's 200-acre ranch on numerous walks around the property during repeated visits.

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A federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent joined the Bradbury deputy who was investigating the Scott shooting in complaining to Morgan's superiors that he may have interfered with the homicide investigation and also breached his confidential relationship with his client, according to interviews and depositions.

"We were concerned about Morgan's role in the investigation, whether he was acting properly as a probation officer," said retired agent Anthony Ricevuto, who was the senior inspector reviewing the case for the DEA. The Scott raid occurred partly because a DEA agent said he spotted marijuana while flying over the ranch.

Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Pat Buckley, who investigated the Scott homicide, said he had never seen a pretrial or probation officer act as Morgan did when Buckley tried to interview Frances Scott at her home after the shooting.

"I was really stunned to see him there," Buckley said in an interview. "I couldn't figure out what role his would be. It turned out to be her legal advisor.

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