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Former Mayor Gets 3 Years

Compton's Omar Bradley is denied probation on his corruption conviction. Two other officials will be sentenced today.

May 14, 2004|Cynthia Daniels | Times Staff Writer

Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley was sentenced to three years in state prison Thursday on felony corruption charges of spending city money on himself.

Bradley, the self-styled "gangster mayor," was convicted in February of using his city-issued credit card to pay for golf rounds, hotel rooms, clothing and in-room movies, among other things. He also was convicted of taking cash advances for city business expenses and then charging those items to his city credit cards and pocketing the money.

Convicted on similar charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court in February were former Compton City Manager John Johnson and former Councilman Amen Rahh. Both will be sentenced today.

In a crowded courtroom, Judge Jack Morgan said of the former mayor: "I have no doubt this gentlemen has done a lot of good in his life. Somehow, when he assumed this power responsible for being the leader of the city, that attitude changed."

Bradley remained quiet during the two-hour hearing, but his son was escorted out of the courtroom after yelling at the judge. The outburst came after Morgan questioned the believability of the testimony of Bradley's wife.

"He's calling my mother a liar!" Omar Rashad yelled. "You can't call my family a liar."

Bradley turned and admonished his son to "sit down or go outside." But sheriff's deputies already were ushering him out.

Prosecutors argued that Bradley should not be eligible for probation because, although he was charged with misappropriation of funds, his actions constituted embezzlement, an offense that does not allow probation.

"Defendant Bradley had taken various amounts of money from time to time for his own personal use," Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry Bork said during the sentencing hearing. "This is not some inadvertence. This is not some mistake. This was intentional, classic embezzlement conduct."

Bradley's attorney, Ben Pesta, argued that his client never intended embezzlement and that the crime did not warrant a prison sentence.

At issue, Pesta said, was about $7,000.

"We consider this amount of money over a period of two years is a relatively low amount of money," he said.

Prosecutors alleged that Bradley misspent closer to $12,000.

They also pointed to testimony from family members about an incident several years earlier.

Relatives said Bradley had canceled a trip to Palm Springs on official business to be at the hospital bedside of his son, who suffered from a genetic skin disorder. Bradley's wife testified she had returned a $2,700 advance given to Bradley for that trip to his secretary. The secretary testified she never received the money.

Prosecutors were able to show that the son had not been in the hospital on that date.

Omar Rashad testified at Thursday's hearing that the error was an "honest mistake" and that he had been in the hospital on the same date the year before.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry White called that another lie.

Also at the hearing, Pesta presented as character witnesses Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) and Bradley's older sister, Linda Bradley.

"As the mayor, as a councilman, my brother Omar Bradley served the people with distinction," Linda Bradley said. "He worked hard for them and, as a result, we have safer streets, new housing and jobs."

Bradley asked permission to address the court. The former mayor, now sporting a full-grown beard and short hair rather than his formerly cleanshaven head, attempted to explain how he had gotten to this point.

"Prior to 1999, I always had the habit of giving money back," Bradley said. But then, while he was serving as mayor of Compton, teaching school, working on his master's degree and coaching football, "I just got lost," he said. "Lost in trying to be somebody."

The judge denied probation.

Bradley was to return to Superior Court this morning for a hearing regarding bail.

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