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Judge Rejects Bid to Dismiss Baugh Case

Courts: Former treasurer for assemblyman says in declaration he made most of the errors on campaign reports.

September 20, 1997|PETER M. WARREN | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

SANTA ANA — Municipal Judge William L. Evans rejected a defense motion to dismiss criminal charges against state Assemblyman Scott R. Baugh as the Huntington Beach Republican's preliminary hearing began Friday.

Baugh is charged with five felony perjury counts and 13 misdemeanor violations of the Campaign Reform Act for allegedly falsifying five campaign and officeholder financial disclosure forms. Prosecutors allege he purposely misreported tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and loans relating to his first campaign for office in 1995.

The motion filed by the defense included a nine-page declaration from Baugh's former campaign treasurer, Daniel Traxler. In it, Traxler said he made most of the errors on Baugh's campaign reports and admits to being "often confused" in previous statements implicating the assemblyman.

Evans said he would consider the lengthy motion as a defense trial brief and suggested it was not appropriate to dismiss the charges prior to hearing the prosecution's case.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Brent Romney said Traxler's apparent reversal would have little bearing on the prosecution.

"Our case against Mr. Baugh focuses on what Mr. Baugh personally knew when he signed under penalty of perjury that things were true when he knew they were not true," he said. "This prosecution focuses on what Mr. Baugh knew and his actions, not what Mr. Traxler knew or his actions."

Baugh, who has maintained his innocence, admitted Friday in an interview he had "made mistakes in the campaign but there was no intent by me to deceive anybody on my campaign reports." He called the prosecution discriminatory.

Allan Stokke, Baugh's lawyer, said the assemblyman has tried repeatedly to settle the case by asking prosecutors to end the criminal prosecution and refer the case to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which handles many campaign reporting violations.

"Elevating this to felony prosecution is contrary to the pattern for handling campaign reporting errors in every other county throughout the state," he said.

Asked about the likelihood of a settlement, Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi said there have been meetings, but "no meeting of the minds about a proper disposition" of the case.

Traxler's declaration says he was under extreme "stress" during interviews with the district attorney's office in 1995 and 1996. He said he saw investigators as "a threat to my family" and feared he might be prosecuted if he did not cooperate.

During the first day of the hearing, Romney presented testimony from two bank officials who authenticated records concerning Baugh's personal and campaign accounts from the fall of 1995. The records will be used to compare with campaign disclosure reports Baugh filed.

There also was testimony from a criminologist, who analyzed the records and also created chronologies of phone calls made by Baugh and others involved in his campaign. Among the records discussed was a $1,000 check from Laurie Campbell, a Democrat and friend of Baugh's who was recruited by Republicans to run in the special election and split the Democratic vote.

Prosecutors allege Baugh omitted that contribution from his campaign reports to hide his connection with the Campbell scheme.

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