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Mailer Angers Leading Latinos

November 13, 2002|Tina Daunt and Matea Gold | Times Staff Writers

Politically powerful Latinos and other elected officials heightened pressure Tuesday on an Alhambra attorney to stop his attack campaign against Los Angeles City Council candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, as evidence surfaced of the attorney's professional troubles.

According to the California Bar Journal, Ricardo A. Torres II, a personal injury lawyer, was suspended in January for 30 days for allegedly committing "acts of moral turpitude." The Journal is the official publication of the State Bar of California.

Torres "stipulated in two matters that he misused his client trust account by depositing attorney fees in it and by writing checks against it for personal expenses," according to the Journal.

Torres -- an ally of Villaraigosa's opponent, City Councilman Nick Pacheco -- dismissed the bar's allegations against him as frivolous on Tuesday.

Torres, 37, has claimed responsibility for mailing fliers to 14th Council District voters attacking Villaraigosa with racially charged criticisms and accusations of marital infidelities.

Pacheco has disavowed the ads, but added that he has no control over Torres' actions. He also tacitly backed up the accusations by characterizing them as factual.

Pacheco's denial that he helped craft the ads has not stopped a barrage of criticism against him by local officials who have sought to end the vitriol. Villaraigosa has filed formal complaints with city and county officials accusing Torres of working in concert with Pacheco on the mailers.

Again Tuesday, much of the city and county's political establishment came down hard on Torres and Pacheco.

Alma Martinez, chief of staff for county Supervisor Gloria Molina, said that because of the fliers, Molina has decided to endorse Villaraigosa. Besides insulting Villaraigosa, the mailers accused the supervisor of benefiting from "government sweetheart deals."

During an afternoon news conference in Van Nuys, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, a Pacheco supporter, also strongly denounced the mailers.

"I think we've seen enough of this kind of negative campaigning," he said.

Pacheco's colleagues on the City Council also criticized the tenor of the fliers.

"As an elected official, I deplore these racially charged attacks," City Councilman Jack Weiss said.

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