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Report on Raabe Urges Probation

Courts: Pre-sentencing study by prison officials finds ex-assistant treasurer 'not a threat to the community.'


SANTA ANA — In a recommendation that could ensure no county official will be sentenced to prison for crimes related to Orange County's bankruptcy, state prison authorities have suggested that former Assistant County Treasurer Matthew R. Raabe be punished with only probation and community service.

In a sentencing brief, Raabe's attorney, Gary M. Pohlson, quoted a state pre-sentencing report that described his client as a solid candidate for probation.

Raabe is "not a threat to the community," the report states, according to Pohlson. "He is not criminally oriented."

The recommendation, contained in the report prepared by Chino prison officials, stands in stark contrast to prosecutors' plea for an eight-year sentence for Raabe, who was convicted in May of misappropriating $90 million from the accounts of cities, schools and other agencies that deposited money in the county's ill-fated investment pool.

In the prosecution's sentencing brief, Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Matthew Anderson characterized Raabe as remorseless and said the former official's "crimes are too serious to justify probation."

Raabe, 41, faces up to 11 years in state prison when he is sentenced by Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey on Oct. 3.

On Wednesday, Pohlson disputed Anderson's contention that Raabe is remorseless, citing the probation examiner's finding that the defendant "feels guilty at the present time. He feels he let people down," according to the report.

Pohlson said his client had already been punished in that "he lost his job, suffered public humiliation, financial ruin and a virtual nervous breakdown" after the county's 1994 bankruptcy filing.

While Raabe was at the Chino state prison where the court-ordered pre-sentencing study was conducted, Pohlson said, inmates pelted him with feces and food during his 40-day confinement.

"He went through a very miserable experience," Pohlson said. "The inmates thought he was a child molester or a snitch. They simply didn't know what he was charged with."

Pohlson said Raabe's stay in prison was already harsher than the sentence handed down to his ex-boss, former Treasurer Robert L. Citron, who was sentenced to serve a year in the county sheriff's work-release program, which allows him to spend nights at his Santa Ana home.

Unlike Raabe, who vigorously fought the charges in court, Citron pleaded guilty a few months after the county's bankruptcy filing to similar charges that he misappropriated public funds by skimming interest and also violated state securities laws.

Former Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino, whose trial on similar misappropriation charges ended with a 9-3 verdict in favor of acquittal, later struck a deal that allowed him to plead no contest to violating a public records law and be sentenced to two years' probation.

On Wednesday, Pohlson said his client has never denied that he helped divert about $90 million belonging to other agencies into a county treasury account. He maintained that he never intended to commit a crime.

"He's always regretted not doing something to head it off," Pohlson said, adding that Raabe was "very nervous" about his sentencing date.

In his sentencing brief, Pohlson presented the judge with more than 100 letters from Raabe's friends and relatives and community leaders.

Raabe "has learned a bitter lesson from what has occurred," Board of Supervisors Chairman William G. Steiner wrote in his letter urging that Raabe be spared a prison term. "To sentence him to jail would be ill-advised from my viewpoint."

Raymond L. Wells, who preceded Raabe as assistant county treasurer and served as a prosecution witness at his trial, also urged Dickey to spare Raabe time behind bars.

Raabe "should not be locked up with hardened criminals," Wells said in his letter. "If anyone is ever deserving of a second chance, I believe Matt Raabe should be given one."

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