During a tumultuous 16-year career in the California Assembly, Republican stalwart Patrick J. Nolan went from "Proposition 13 baby" to "caveman" to felon.
In the late 1980s, the Glendale lawmaker headed the Republican caucus in Sacramento and was considered a rising star in the party. But his political career came to an abrupt and inglorious end in 1994 when, after a prolonged FBI investigation into corruption in Sacramento, he pleaded guilty to a single racketeering charge and was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.
Despite a signed confession in which he admitted his role in trying to extort a $10,000 campaign contribution from the Marriott Corp. in exchange for his vote, Nolan continues to insist that he never did anything wrong. Instead, he has said that he agreed to a plea bargain only to avoid the risk of a longer prison sentence that would have kept him apart from his family.
Described by his colleagues as glib and ambitious, Nolan was, at 28, the youngest California assemblyman ever elected when he and other so-called "Proposition 13 babies" swept into office in 1978 while supporting the landmark property tax-cutting initiative. In the Assembly, Nolan became the leader of a group of legislators whose views were so conservative that colleagues dubbed them "the cavemen."
A Los Angeles native who attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and USC as an undergraduate and a law student, Nolan got his first taste of politics at age 10 when he hung brochures on doorknobs in support of Richard Nixon's unsuccessful first campaign for president.
In June 1996, Nolan regained his freedom after serving seven months in federal prison and two more at a Sacramento halfway house. He announced he had accepted the presidency of the Washington, D.C.-based prison-reform group Justice Fellowship, affiliated with a group started by former White House aide Charles W. "Chuck" Colson of Watergate fame.