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D.A. Seeks Retrial of Robles

January 07, 2003|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

The district attorney's office will seek to retry South Gate Treasurer Albert Robles and has launched another political corruption investigation in the troubled city.

The Robles decision comes three weeks after a jury deadlocked on charges that he had threatened to kill four people, including two state lawmakers. Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio has not ruled on whether he will allow a retrial. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday.

In another development, several of Robles' political allies have been ordered to appear before the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, starting Wednesday.

Among those receiving subpoenas in recent days, according to sources, are the Police Department's command staff, including acting Police Chief Rick Lopez and City Manager Jesus Marez.

The district attorney's office does not provide details of investigations involving the grand jury, and the nature of the probe is not clear yet.

It also is unclear whether those subpoenaed are suspects or witnesses.

Within the last year, almost every elected official in South Gate has been subpoenaed or has endured a home search. Three of Robles' allies have been convicted of electoral fraud charges.

City attorneys in the past have criticized the district attorney's office, saying that the probes are politically motivated attempts to oust locally elected officials.

But many residents said that, with the new investigation, the specter of corruption that plagues the city has spread beyond City Hall.

"It doesn't look good," said Councilman Henry Gonzalez, one of two councilmen who oppose the council majority. "The three highest-ranking officers in the Police Department are being subpoenaed. It leaves a lot of bad perception as to what's going on."

The hiring of Lopez last summer was authorized by the three-member City Council majority, which is allied with Robles, the city's leading political force. All four face a recall election later this month. Proponents of the recall say the four are corrupt, accusations the officials deny.

Lopez, the former Maywood police chief, stirred controversy within days of being hired. He has been criticized for firing, demoting or placing on leave veteran officers who are working on the voter recall effort against Robles. He also was under fire for hiring a police officer once terminated for tipping off suspects in a federal drug investigation.

Lopez was not available for comment.

In recent weeks, the council majority has launched a series of moves against the police unions, which are strong recall backers. Most recently, they approved the creation, with Lopez's approval, of a "community accountability panel" to prevent alleged police brutality.

The unions said this and other measures are intended to discredit the organization.

Robles and his allies, they said, are trying to deflect attention from their own troubles.

"The truth is that they are being investigated, and we support the district attorney's investigations," said Al Lopez, president of the police officers' association.

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