Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley acknowledged Wednesday that he used city money intended for hotels and car rentals to attend parties and buy meals, but insisted that the expenditures were proper.
Bradley was in his second day on the witness stand at his political corruption trial. Prosecutors allege that he misused public funds during his last two years in office.
Under cross-examination, Bradley admitted that he used $752 in public funds for cab rides and for an event involving civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, among other things, during a 1999 trip to a conference in Washington, D.C.
But he said those expenses were justified because they allowed him to lobby politicians for funds. Receiving grants, especially for public safety, he said, would be more likely "if they remember the mayor of Compton ... if they remember 93 murders per year," said Bradley, referring to a Compton crime statistic.
Bradley's attendance at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event was one of several trips that prosecutors were expected to focus on as their cross-examination continues today.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry White tried to discredit Bradley's claims that all of the expenses he billed taxpayers for, including in-room movies at hotels, cigars and golf rounds, were related to Compton city business.
Bradley is charged with billing $3,874 on his city-issued credit card for personal expenses. Prosecutors also accuse him of taking advance money from the city and then using his city credit card to pay the bills.
Bradley, during several hours on the stand, seemed frustrated at times but mostly kept his composure under the aggressive cross-examination.
The job of mayor was a round-the-clock responsibility, he testified earlier, and Compton laws permitted him to be compensated for all his expenses related to the post.
"You never stop being the mayor. You're mayor 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
Bradley said the "accepted practice" in Compton permitted him to bill taxpayers for two in-room movies totaling $21.88. He said he did not remember what movies he saw in the Washington hotel.
Bradley said that during the Washington trip he met with several officials, including the U.S. secretary of Transportation and the mayors of New Orleans and Detroit. White elicited from Bradley that members of Congress he had met in Washington also had local offices, suggesting that Bradley did not have to meet them in the nation's capital.
For the trip, Bradley received a $1,126 advance to pay for his hotel and other expenses. But he charged the hotel stay on his city-issued credit card, leaving a $752 difference that prosecutors allege he misused.
On the stand, Bradley sometimes could not recall specifics. Asked about a trip to Nashville, he was unable to remember with whom he dined after midnight in his hotel room. The room-service tab was $60.91, including $37 for a bottle of wine.
Earlier in the day he explained for the first time why he held a city meeting in 2001 at a Torrance hotel, billing taxpayers $567. Bradley said he moved the meeting because he had been receiving death threats and didn't feel secure in Compton.
"It wasn't safe for me to be in Compton," he said, grimacing.
Bradley also displayed emotion when testifying that he once had to return from a Palm Springs conference because his son, who has a hereditary disease, was in critical condition at a hospital. Bradley's wife, Robin, said she returned the city's advance because the mayor never made it to the conference.
Bradley is on trial along with four other former and current Compton officials. They are former City Manager John Johnson, former council members Amen Rahh and Delores Zurita, and Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux. If convicted, they could face four-year prison terms.