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Witness Changes Story in Fraud Case

Courts: Laurie Campbell says GOP campaign aide--not Assemblyman Scott Baugh, as she previously testified-- recruited her to run as a spoiler candidate in 1995.

September 25, 1997|JEAN O. PASCO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — A Democratic spoiler candidate in the November 1995 election of Assemblyman Scott Baugh dramatically reversed her previous sworn statements Wednesday, testifying that it was a Republican campaign aide, not Baugh, who recruited her to run.

Laurie Campbell testified that Richard Martin, who worked briefly for Baugh's campaign, told her that fellow GOP campaign aide Rhonda Carmony wanted to meet her to discuss having Campbell run.

That contradicted Campbell's statements to district attorney's investigators a week after the election, her statements under oath to the Orange County Grand Jury in February 1996, and her testimony in Carmony's criminal trial, which ended in a hung jury. Each previous time she said she had been approached by Baugh.

Campbell changed her account Wednesday in response to questions by Deputy Dist. Atty. Brent Romney during a preliminary hearing to determine if Baugh should stand trial on seven felony and 13 misdemeanor charges.

Baugh, a Republican from Huntington Beach, is accused of misreporting thousands of dollars in loans and contributions on his campaign reports, including $1,000 that he received and returned to Campbell and her husband.

Prosecutors contend that Baugh recruited Campbell to split the Democratic vote in the winner-take-all race as a way of improving his chances in a field crowded with other Republicans. Baugh has admitted discussing the idea of Campbell running but denied recruiting or helping her qualify for the ballot.

The election was crucial for Republicans in the process of recalling maverick Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), who had angered GOP leadership by becoming Assembly speaker with Democratic votes. Allen was recalled and replaced with Baugh, who provided the key vote for Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) to assume the speakership in 1995.

Campbell became visibly upset Wednesday when Romney asked if she had lied previously to the grand jury about who encouraged her to run. Orange County Municipal Judge William Evans allowed her to consult by phone with her attorney. When she returned, she declined to answer the question, asserting her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Campbell was ordered to return to court when the preliminary hearing resumes Oct. 14, after the judge's vacation.

Romney said his office will consider offering Campbell immunity from prosecution if she agrees to resume her testimony, meaning she would not be charged with perjury.

"The question is, is she finally now telling the truth after multiple statements [to the contrary] under oath, or has she changed her testimony in response to protecting Mr. Baugh?" Romney said. "We're confident she testified truthfully to the grand jury and in the Carmony case and that she made truthful statements" to investigators.

Campbell said Wednesday that she initially told investigators it was Baugh who suggested she contact Carmony to help qualify for the ballot. Carmony has pleaded not guilty to charges that she falsified nomination documents.

After more thought, Campbell said, she realized it was Martin, Baugh's campaign aide, who had made the statements. But she told the grand jury two months later that it was Baugh, and said it again in July at Carmony's trial; she said she did it because she feared the wrath of prosecutors.

"I was being consistent with previous statements I made because I was threatened with perjury charges," Campbell said.

She referred to an agreement she signed promising to be truthful with prosecutors in exchange for the potential of being charged only with misdemeanors.

She has admitted that she did not obtain any of the voter signatures on her nomination papers despite signing under penalty of perjury that she collected them all.

Martin could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Previously, he has testified that he called Campbell about running and helped her prepare her nomination papers. He said he did so at Carmony's direction.

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