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Prosecutors Will Try to Reinstate Baugh Charges


SANTA ANA — Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi said Wednesday that his office intends to reinstate the election fraud charges against Republican Assemblyman Scott R. Baugh that a judge dismissed Tuesday.

"We are trying to determine the best option to get the entire case back on track and to an ultimate determination by a jury," Capizzi said. "It is not whether we can do that, but which of the options we are going to utilize."

Those options include appealing the Superior Court judge's decision to dismiss most of the charges against Baugh; refiling them on a direct criminal complaint that would almost certainly entail a preliminary hearing, or returning to the Orange County Grand Jury to seek a new indictment.

Making his first public pronouncement on the ruling by Superior Court Judge James L. Smith, Capizzi said the dismissal of 17 of the 22 election fraud counts against Baugh was "a pyrrhic victory for the defense, and presumably short-lived."

Ruling in favor of a motion by Baugh's defense attorney, the judge agreed that prosecutors had withheld crucial information about a key witness from the grand jury that originally indicted Baugh, one of his staff aides and the campaign manager of U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach). The grand jury charges against Maureen Werft, Baugh's chief of staff, and Rhonda Carmony, an aide to Rohrabacher, were not affected by the judge's ruling.

Baugh was not immediately available for comment. But Tuesday, he had predicted that the district attorney would not succeed in trying to convict him on the remaining five charges.

Baugh's lawyers also said Tuesday they intended to ask the district attorney's office to drop the remaining charges, which include one felony and four misdemeanors alleging Baugh failed to report $11,000 in loans he received during his campaign.

"We are not dropping those charges. Absolutely not," Capizzi said.

Prosecutors won a delay in the proceedings against Baugh on Wednesday; Smith gave them until Oct. 3 to decide how they would proceed.

Among the charges dismissed were two felonies associated with allegedly perjured statements by Baugh. The statements concerned the source of a $1,000 contribution to his campaign by a decoy Democratic candidate recruited by Republicans to siphon votes from Baugh's chief rival in last year's recall vote on Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress).

Instead of reporting that the contribution was made by Laurie Campbell and her husband, Baugh claimed that the $1,000 deposited in his campaign treasury was a loan from himself, prosecutors allege. Campbell was later thrown off the ballot by a Sacramento judge when the Democratic Party challenged her candidacy, and Baugh filed an amended campaign finance report on election day disclosing the actual source of the contribution.

Capizzi characterized Judge Smith's decision as "a ruling on a procedural issue, not on the substantive issue of guilt or innocence. There are options from appealing to refiling, and we are exploring those."

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