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South Gate Official's Threats Described

Crime: Treasurer allegedly said he wanted to harm two legislators and a police official, prosecutors say. He calls charges a politically motivated attack.

April 09, 2002|RICHARD MAROSI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors on Monday provided details of their case against South Gate Treasurer Albert Robles, alleging that Robles made numerous terrifying threats against public officials, including two state legislators and a police officer.

Robles allegedly said he wanted to "blow the brains out" of one legislator and rape another. He also allegedly expressed a desire to fatally stab state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles).

Robles, prosecutors suspect, also stalked Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn while working on one of her campaigns, forcing her once to flee for her safety.

The details emerged as prosecutors filed formal charges against Robles. The 37-year-old politician stands accused of seven felony threat charges against four people--Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh (D-Los Angeles); state Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier); Escutia's husband, Leo Briones; and South Gate Police Lt. Vince Avila.

He is also charged with possessing two illegal assault weapons, including a semiautomatic rifle.

If he is found guilty, Robles faces a potential eight-year prison term. At his arraignment scheduled for this afternoon, prosecutors will request that bail be set at $500,000.

"The potential harm the defendant may cause to victims, witnesses

Robles, through his attorneys, has denied the charges, saying that the case is a politically motivated attempt to get back at him for standing up to powerful politicians in southeast Los Angeles County.

Robles has admitted using strong language against his political opponents, but said such language merely reflects his passionately felt beliefs.

"The charges are ridiculous and utterly groundless," a city attorney, George B. Newhouse Jr., said in a statement released upon Robles' arrest Friday. "They amount to a media stunt and a violation of Mr. Robles' basic constitutional rights."

Prosecutors paint a disturbing picture of Robles in the 16-page court document in support of the bail amount. The legal motion includes accounts from numerous witnesses, some of them other city officials.

A sampling:

* At a March 2001 luncheon, Robles told two witnesses, one of them a Lynwood official, that he wanted to harm Escutia and her husband. "If I could get away with it, I'd have [Briones] killed and rape [Escutia]." Briones said Robles once allegedly told him: "I'm not afraid of you. I'm a ... loco. I'm crazy."

* In June 2001, Robles allegedly told a witness that he wanted to take Firebaugh to Tijuana, where he would "put him in the trunk of a car and blow his ... brains out."

* In 1999, Robles allegedly wanted one witness to relay a message to Avila, the police officer. "Tell your friend Lt. Avila that he's a loser, and you know what, when someone gets killed, what they should do is shoot them in the eyes, both eyes to make sure that they're dead."

Prosecutors also included evidence of other alleged threats not included in the charges, but used to demonstrate that Robles poses a danger to others.

Robles allegedly told a South Gate official at a lunch meeting last year that he wanted to harm Polanco. "If Polanco was sitting next to me, I swear to God, I'd stab him to death and plead insanity when I went to trial," prosecutors quoted him as saying.

No charges were filed in that case because, according to prosecutors, the alleged threat never reached Polanco.

In 1992, prosecutors allege, he wouldn't let Hahn get into her car and made threatening remarks. He once allegedly banged on her front door, yelling for her to come out, forcing Hahn to flee through a back door.

In an interview Monday, Hahn said Robles was angry after he was kicked off her campaign for being too controlling.

Though she reported the incidents to police, she did not press charges. Robles, Hahn said, stopped bothering her after police warned him about her concerns. Robles, she said, apparently didn't learn his lesson in regard to other officials.

"As you can tell, he has this history of wanting power and wanting to control, and when that gets taken away from him, his behavior is really inappropriate," she said.

Under state law, a person can be convicted of making a threat even if there is no intent of carrying it out. A threat can be made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic device.

*

Times staff writer Tina Daunt contributed to this report.

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