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Judge Orders Inspection of Ballots in Compton

Court: The ruling involving 10,600 votes is a victory for ex-Mayor Omar Bradley, who lost his reelection attempt and is claiming fraud.

November 15, 2001|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A day after a startling setback in his legal battle to regain his title as Compton's mayor, Omar Bradley scored a victory Wednesday when a Superior Court judge ordered the inspection of 10,600 ballots.

Judge Judith Chirlin said she was motivated to unseal the boxes because it was important to "instill confidence in the people of Compton who will have to accept the results of this [election] process."

The boxes may be opened at 9 a.m. today if the plaintiffs' ballot expert can make it. But attorneys said that it was more likely that the inspection would begin Monday.

In his lawsuit, Bradley, who lost the June 5 election by 261 votes to Deputy Dist. Atty. Eric Perrodin, alleges that the voting was marred by counterfeiting and other irregularities.

On Tuesday, a key witness who was expected to testify on Bradley's behalf dealt a blow to the plaintiffs. Compton school board member Basil Kimbrew denied seeing counterfeit ballots, and accused Bradley's attorney of trying to bribe him. Bradley W. Hertz, the former mayor's lawyer, has said Kimbrew committed perjury on the stand.

Brian Pierik, the lawyer representing Compton and Perrodin, argued Wednesday that there was not enough evidence to open the ballot boxes and that Hertz waited too long to make the request.

But, he added, he was confident that no counterfeit ballots would be found.

Pierik questioned Bradley, who took the witness stand for the first time, about his relationship with Kimbrew, considered a longtime adversary of Bradley.

Pierik asked if they were such opponents in Compton, why did Bradley believe Kimbrew when the school board member told him about the fraud at a meeting in September.

"Every dark cloud has a silver lining, even Mr. Kimbrew," Bradley said with a smile. "That can only be proven by what is in the box."

Under rules agreed to by attorneys, the ballots will be inspected by experts from both sides. Though the vote will not officially be recounted, the total votes cast will be tallied and the ballots will be inspected for authenticity. The count is expected to take two to three days.

Deborah Seiler, who publishes the California Elections Report, will be coming from Sacramento, Hertz said. The defendants's expert will be available Thursday morning.

Bradley and two City Council nominees who ran on his slate, Melanie Andrews and Frank K. Wheaton, are accusing Perrodin, City Clerk Charles Davis and the city of Compton of wholesale election fraud. They say there were irregularities in more than 500 votes, including some in which the signatures didn't match those on the voting rolls.

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