Compton Mayor Eric Perrodin testified Wednesday that he was carrying a concealed gun when he visited a polling place during his June election, but he denied allegations that he intimidated voters there.
Though conceding that he had cursed at them, Perrodin contested accusations that he made death threats against city firefighters who were campaigning for his opponent, then-Mayor Omar Bradley, on June 5.
Perrodin's victory in that voting is being challenged as riddled with fraud in a lawsuit filed by Bradley against Perrodin, the city and others. The trial is being heard in Los Angeles Superior Court.
During three hours of questioning from Bradley's attorney, the current mayor testified that he went to the polls because he had heard that pro-Bradley firefighters were blocking traffic and harassing voters.
Bradley Hertz, Bradley's attorney, asked Perrodin if he knew it was against the law to have a gun at a polling place.
"I was told by my attorney this morning," Perrodin replied.
He vehemently denied that he brandished it to threaten Bradley supporters on election day.
Perrodin, who is a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, said he has a license to carry a handgun. A former Compton policeman, he said he carries it for protection because he made a lot of arrests and could face retribution.
"It's better for me to be armed and not need [it] than to need it and not be armed," he said.
Tony Branson, president of the Compton Firefighters Assn., testified earlier in the week that Perrodin drove up to the polling place, uttered an obscenity against the firefighters and raised "both his middle fingers up."
Branson said he saw Perrodin take the handgun from his car and put it in a pocket. Several firefighters testified that they thought that action and the obscenities were threatening to voters.
Firefighters supported Bradley because he promised that they would keep their jobs under a now-stalled plan for the city to disband its Fire Department and contract with the county for protection.
Perrodin conceded Wednesday that he had used profanity. But as for the suggestion that he shown them the middle fingers of both hands, he said: "I didn't think I did two. I think I did one."
The mayor also said he told the firefighters there would be "consequences" for their decision not to support him in the election. He said he would not support their effort to switch to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, where they hoped for better equipment and working conditions.
Perrodin said he told the firefighters: "You guys are not going to go county if I can do anything to prevent it."
In other questioning, he admitted that his campaign accepted a contribution from Death Row Records, the controversial company founded by rap music mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, who was recently released from prison where he served five years for a probation violation stemming from an assault.
Perrodin said he had questions about whether to accept the money, but in the end he decided to take it.
"We needed it," he said of the contribution, the size of which was not revealed in court.
After Bradley finished more than three hours of questioning from his lawyer, the attorney representing Compton, Bruce Gridley, took less than five minutes to ask about some campaign literature.
"It is clear to us Mr. Perrodin was a convincing witness," Gridley later said in the hallway.
Eddie Rodriquez, a firefighter, took issue with much of Perrodin's testimony, but he admired his composure on the stand.
"He's smooth," he said after the court session.