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Ex-Compton Mayor Avoids Prison

Omar Bradley, given three years for misusing public funds, is in a halfway house.

July 30, 2004|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, sentenced in May to three years in prison for using his city-issued credit card for personal expenses and double-billing taxpayers, is serving his time in a Los Angeles halfway house, officials said Thursday.

Self-styled "gangster mayor" Bradley, former City Councilman Amen Rahh and former City Manager John D. Johnson were found guilty in February of misappropriating public funds and making unauthorized loans while in office.

Terry Bork, who prosecuted Bradley, said he was taken aback by news of Bradley's assignment to what state officials described as a restitution house because, he said, no victim restitution was ordered.

A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections said there was nothing unusual about sending Bradley to Volunteers of America at West 18th Street and La Cienega Boulevard.

"When we get an inmate, we try to find an appropriate place for him. Apparently he met the criteria," said George Kostyrko, who said he was unaware that Bradley was not ordered to pay restitution to the city.

Bradley, 45, is allowed to leave the 50-bed, minimum-security facility five days a week to work for a job-training program in Carson for the developmentally disabled, authorities said. He is also allowed visitors but is not permitted to have a vehicle, said Jim Howat, spokesman for Volunteers for America.

Few prison inmates qualify for the program because they cannot be repeat offenders or be convicted of a violent crime, Kostyrko said. "We have trouble filling the 50 beds."

Bork is perplexed that Bradley was admitted to the program because Superior Court Judge Jack Morgan did not impose an order to repay Compton about $19,000 that the district attorney's office believes was owed.

City Council members "decided they wanted to put this matter behind them" and declined to request repayment, he said. Morgan ordered a $200 restitution fine, which is required by law and goes to a state fund for victim expenses.

"Here the city said, 'We forgo our rights to restitution,' and then corrections sends him to a restitution center," Bork said, adding that Bradley's parole officer told him the $200 fine qualified him for the restitution program.

Bradley's attorney, Ben Pesta, said that the amount he believes Bradley owes is $1,700 and that serving time behind bars would be too harsh for the crime. "Right now he's destitute," Pesta said of his client. "That's why the court did not order restitution."

Bradley, Rahh and Johnson were charged with two counts each of misusing public funds from 1999 to 2001. Prosecutors alleged that the men had taken cash advances for city business expenses but charged those items to their city credit cards and pocketed the cash.

Although Bradley received a three-year sentence, he will be released in August 2005, because of time served in jail while awaiting trial, Bork said.

Johnson was sentenced to three years in prison and Rahh was ordered to perform 250 days' community service. Bork said it was not known whether Johnson would be allowed to serve his sentence in a halfway house.

Percy Perrodin, a retired Compton police captain who has been critical of Bradley, said the former mayor should serve his time in prison.

Putting Bradley in a halfway house "sends the wrong message," he said.

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Times staff writers Anna Gorman and Richard Marosi contributed to this report.

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