The corruption trial of former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley reached an emotional peak late last year when Bradley's son cried as he described how his father rushed to his bedside after the 26-year-old became sick.
The former mayor used the hospital visit as an excuse for some of his alleged misuse of public funds. Bradley testified, sometimes tearfully, that he had canceled a trip to Palm Springs on official business to be with his son, who suffers from a genetic skin disorder. Bradley's wife testified that she had returned a $2,700 advance given to Bradley for the trip.
But at his sentencing hearing Thursday, prosecutors are expected to argue that there was no hospital visit, that Bradley lied on the stand to cover up his crime.
Bradley was convicted in February for using his city-issued credit card on personal expenses, and for double-billing taxpayers.
The new accusation presents a potentially aggravating factor in the sentencing deliberations as Superior Court Judge Jack Morgan weighs whether Bradley should get prison time. Bradley, a 46-year-old former educator, has been incarcerated since his conviction.
Bradley's attorney, Ben Pesta, said that the family had made a "collective mistake" and that the visit did occur, but a year earlier than they testified.
"They simply got the year wrong. They believed they were correct," he said. "Obviously, there was no perjury or intent to deceive."
Pesta has asked the judge to give the former mayor probation, as recommended in Los Angeles County Probation Department evaluation of Bradley.
Prosecutors are recommending a three-year prison sentence; they say Bradley cheated Compton's taxpayers and turned his misspending into a "way of life."
They also want the new accusation to be taken into consideration, although they will not charge Bradley with perjury. Prosecutors say they learned of the alleged fabrication after hospital records showed that Bradley's son was not a patient at the time the family claimed.
"Bradley's testimony in this matter was ... elusive and conflicting. He obviously did not want to give straight answers when questioned. Now we know why.... It was all a fraud and a sham, created by defendant Bradley to mislead the court and jury," wrote Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry Bork in a sentencing brief.
Bradley was convicted for using his city-issued credit card on golf rounds, hotel rooms, clothing and in-room movies, among other things. He was also convicted of taking cash advances for city business expenses and then charging those items to his city credit cards and pocketing the cash.
Convicted on similar charges were former Compton City Manager John Johnson and former Councilman Amen Rahh.
The $2,700 Bradley received in May 2001 was for hotels, meals and travel expenses relating to a California Contract Cities conference.
Bradley testified that he had skipped the conference to be with his son, Omar Rashad, at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center. Bradley's wife testified that she had returned the advance to Bradley's secretary, who testified that she had never received the money.
Pesta said there was no reason for the Bradley family to concoct a story, and that "it's a matter of completely understandable confusion."
Bradley, he said, has had a difficult time behind bars. Once the most dominant political figure in Compton, Bradley has spent the last few months in solitary confinement at a county jail facility and at the California Institution for Men in Chino. Because he is a high-profile figure, Bradley was placed in solitary confinement for his own protection, Pesta said.
At times, Bradley has been forced to sit in his cell in only his undershorts, socks and shoes, the lawyer said. The three months he has already served is more than enough punishment for misusing about $7,000 in public funds, Pesta said. Prosecutors allege that Bradley misspent closer to $12,000.
"He's undergone a great deal of privation for a crime that involved a small amount of money. You don't expect to be imprisoned in your undershorts, outside of Iraq," Pesta said.
The attorney, as well as some members of the community, said Bradley should also be given credit for his public service during the decade that he was a council member and mayor. But prosecutors say Compton was the victim.
"The public money that the defendant squandered represented the sweat of the brow and lifeblood of hard-working taxpayers who daily forgo the luxuries in which the defendant liberally indulged," Bork wrote in his sentencing brief.