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2 Plead in South Gate Election Cases

Politics: A candidate and a printer of campaign material plead no contest to charges in 2001 city balloting.


A printer of political campaign mailers and a former South Gate City Council candidate pleaded no contest Monday to electoral fraud charges stemming from their roles in South Gate's 2001 election.

The former candidate, Katrina Jackson, entered a no-contest plea to charges that she lied about her residency to qualify for the ballot. The Los Angeles-based printer, Angel Gonzalez, was accused of conspiring to publish a "hit piece" campaign mailer that contained false depictions of official documents.

Their no-contest pleas came on the same day of a scheduled preliminary hearing on the case. The flier, which falsely claimed that candidate Patricia Acosta had been disqualified from the ballot, used the official seals of California and the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Acosta lost the election by 1,000 votes.

Although false mailers are not necessarily illegal, using fake depictions of public documents does violate election code laws.

"It closes a rather sordid chapter of the electoral history of that city, in which these fliers with bogus public records were used in an effort to mislead people," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry Bork, the lead prosecutor on the case.

Despite the Gonzalez conviction, it remains unclear who financed distribution of the fliers.

Prosecutors declined to comment on whether the investigation is ongoing.

Gonzalez has long-standing ties to South Gate's leading elected officials, including Treasurer Albert Robles, the city's perceived political boss.

Robles has consistently denied being behind the mailers. In an unrelated case, he is charged with threatening to kill two state legislators.

Gonzalez's attorney, Mark Werksman, said the pleas weren't tied to any cooperation agreements with authorities.

As part of the plea arrangement, four other counts against Jackson and Gonzalez were dropped by prosecutors.

In one year, their felony convictions will be downgraded to misdemeanors if they serve 200 hours of community service and break no laws.

"They pleaded, it's over and the case is now history," said Werksman.

"The district attorney has very little to show for an extremely aggressive investigation and prosecution of two bit players in the South Gate drama."

South Gate's elections have long been marred by viciously false campaign mailers, some of which have accused candidates of being child molesters or drunks.

The mailer attacking Acosta was sent to 12,000 homes in time for the March 6, 2001, election, when 10 candidates were running for two seats on the City Council.

The two-sided flier falsely claimed that the city clerk had disqualified Acosta because she was the target of a corruption investigation by the district attorney's office.

One side--topped by the message: "Important Ballot Change, Candidate Disqualification"--used the seal of California. The flip side used the seal of Los Angeles Superior Court and the same format as an official legal complaint.

Acosta called the no-contest plea a "tremendous" victory. "We knew what they did was a lie, and I'm positive that what happened affected the outcome of my campaign," she said.

Acosta added that she thinks the case could yield more suspects. "What I hope is that [Gonzalez] can tell us who was behind all of this," she said. "That would be the ultimate victory to the war."

In the Jackson case, prosecutors alleged that she filed a false declaration of candidacy, stating that she lived in South Gate when she actually lived in Los Angeles. Another former South Gate candidate, Richard Mayer, was convicted on similar charges last year.

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