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Espinoza Ruling Helps Prosecutors

* Judge says the ex-councilman's grand jury testimony and other statements can be used in the corruption trial.


The government can introduce as evidence grand jury testimony and other statements given by former Santa Ana Councilman Tony Espinoza in the public corruption case against him and two political allies, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Attorneys for Espinoza had tried to throw out the bulk of his statements on grounds that they were tied to a plea agreement that was later voided when Espinoza pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Gary Taylor ruled that the statements Espinoza gave to federal agents and the grand jury were admissible as long as they excluded any mention of the plea agreement.

Taylor also rejected an attempt by defense attorneys to remove Assistant U.S. Atty. John Hueston from the case.

Espinoza had agreed last year to plead guilty to lesser charges and cooperate with federal authorities conducting the corruption probe. The investigation centered on allegations that Espinoza, Santa Ana Councilman Ted R. Moreno and former council candidates Hector Olivares and Roman Palacios conspired to extort campaign contributions from local businessmen during the 1996 Santa Ana City Council elections.

Moreno and Olivares have denied any wrongdoing.

Palacios pleaded guilty to one felony count and agreed to testify against the others.

The trial is set for Feb. 1.

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