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Judge Dismisses 5 of 8 Charges Against Robles

June 08, 2004|Cynthia Daniels | Times Staff Writer

A judge Monday dismissed five charges against former South Gate treasurer Albert Robles, leaving him to face trial on three felony charges alleging that he violated election laws and misused public funds in an unsuccessful bid to avoid recall last year.

Robles was indicted by a grand jury last July for allegedly masterminding a wide-ranging conspiracy to violate election laws and misuse public funds.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry on Monday dismissed two felony and three misdemeanor charges after defense attorneys had argued that prosecutors submitted prejudicial evidence and provided improper instructions to grand jurors.

Robles could have been sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison under the original charges. After Perry's action Monday, Robles faces a maximum of four years and eight months in prison, if convicted of the remaining charges of conspiracy, use of an unauthorized signature in a campaign advertisement and misappropriation of public funds.

"Before, [this case] was just this huge clouded mess of mudslinging," said Deputy Public Defender Lynn Norton, Robles' attorney. "Now it's just tailored ... it's neat."

Norton said the prosecution's presentation to the grand jury was "tainted" because of inadmissible evidence.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said that an appeal is under consideration. She said Robles will be prosecuted on the remaining charges.

"It's still a good case," Gibbons said.

Robles, along with two alleged co-conspirators, Angel Gonzalez and Ricardo Hernandez, was accused of conspiring to print and mail false campaign fliers and to use city money to pay for them.

He allegedly sent a political mailer with a fraudulent endorsement, forged the signature of former South Gate Police Chief Rick Lopez, surreptitiously organized three political action committees and committed election fraud.

But Norton said the dismissals mean that the case now will focus on whether Robles was authorized to use Lopez's photo, and whether he was aware that city funds were used to pay for the photos.

"We're talking about less than $120," Norton said. "Yet thousands of man hours and a lot of money and everybody's time has been spent. It shows [the prosecution's] feelings toward Mr. Robles and their attempt to secure any type of conviction against him regardless of what the evidence is and what the charges are."

All charges were dismissed Monday against Hernandez.

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