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Judge Grants Delay in Campaign Ethics Case

Attorney asks state high court to dismiss charges that he laundered contributions to Hahn.

June 16, 2005|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles attorney Pierce O'Donnell has asked the state Supreme Court to consider tossing out charges that he laundered more than $25,000 in political contributions to Mayor James K. Hahn's 2001 campaign, his lawyer told a judge Wednesday.

As a result, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Ryan agreed to delay until July 12 O'Donnell's arraignment on 26 misdemeanor counts of making political contributions in other people's names. If convicted, O'Donnell could face up to 13 years in prison.

George L. O'Connell, an attorney for O'Donnell, said a petition has been filed asking the state Supreme Court to review previous rulings that upheld the charges.

The district attorney has charged that O'Donnell violated state law by gathering $25,500 from employees and others, giving the money to Hahn's 2001 campaign for mayor and reimbursing the donors.

The case was one of several involving ethical issues cited by City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa in his successful campaign to unseat Hahn in the May 17 runoff election. Hahn, who has not been charged, has said he knew of no improprieties involving contributions from O'Donnell associates.

O'Connell argued that prosecutors wrongly filed the case under state law when local law should have been cited because the case involves a city election. If city law preempts state law, the case would have to be dismissed because the statute of limitations on filing under city law has expired, O'Connell said.

Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones and a state Court of Appeal have ruled against O'Connell's argument.

"I'm optimistic," O'Connell said Wednesday. "Judge Jones was very careful and thorough in her ruling, but I think she got it wrong, and she got it wrong in a way that I think the Supreme Court should take notice."

Arraignment was also postponed for O'Donnell's personal trainer, David Bernstein, who faces two misdemeanor charges.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley declined to comment on the appeal. The arraignment delay means the case will not go to trial until after Hahn leaves office, June 30.

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