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Jaramillo Not Key to O.C. Displays, Witness Testifies

April 27, 2005|Christine Hanley and H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writers

A businessman who hired an Orange County assistant sheriff to promote a device to stop high-speed police chases testified Tuesday that the consulting agreement ended abruptly after only three months, well before the Sheriff's Department staged some of its demonstrations to show off the invention.

Charles H. Gabbard also said that he did not hire George Jaramillo to help arrange demonstrations with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and that Jaramillo was more useful setting up events with police agencies elsewhere.

Jaramillo, he said, cut off what was supposed to be a yearlong consulting arrangement when he learned Gabbard was a felon.

The testimony came under cross-examination by Jaramillo's attorney, Joseph G. Cavallo, on the sixth day of Gabbard's special hearing, which is being allowed because prosecutors fear that Gabbard, who is 69 and suffers from emphysema, might not live to testify at a trial.

Jaramillo, who was fired from the department in March 2004, and his sister-in-law, Erica Hill, are accused of misusing deputies, squad cars and other county resources for financial gain by helping stage six demonstrations from 2000 to 2002 that promoted an invention that Gabbard's company, CHG Safety Technologies of Newport Beach, had developed to disable cars during high-speed chases. Each has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $25,000 bond.

During a second day of questioning by Cavallo, Gabbard said there were no provisions in the deal that required Jaramillo to help arrange any demonstrations with the Sheriff's Department. Gabbard said he could arrange such demonstrations by himself and had done so with other police agencies on a one-man cross-country trip.

"You didn't need George Jaramillo to do demonstrations, true?" Cavallo asked.

"Yes and no," Gabbard said, explaining that the doors Jaramillo helped open were at agencies outside Orange County.

During this same line of questioning, Cavallo got Gabbard to acknowledge that two Orange County deputies, one of them a supervisor, were stockholders in CHG during the period that some of the demonstrations were held. At the same time, Jaramillo did not own stock and had no agreements to own stock or any share in the company, Gabbard said.

Jaramillo broke off his consulting agreement in January or February 2001, after learning that Gabbard had been convicted of a variety of crimes and served time in prison, Gabbard testified.

Gabbard said that after that, Jaramillo did some things for the company but was not paid and that he did not consider him an employee. Three of the Orange County demonstrations were staged after the consulting deal was cut short.

Cavallo also revisited the issue of whether consulting payments made to Jaramillo amounted to a bribe. Gabbard repeated what he said last week in his direct testimony, that Jaramillo asked him to make out a $10,000 company check to his wife because Jaramillo "didn't want to create a paper trail."

The money Jaramillo received has been characterized by Gabbard as both bribes and consulting fees.

Cross-examination is scheduled to resume today.

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