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Man convicted of flashing false badge

August 14, 2007|Evelyn Larrubia | Times Staff Writer

A Compton man who flashed an official-looking state badge to police on the Redondo Beach pier has been convicted on nine misdemeanor counts, including false use of a badge and driving drunk.

The metal badge, which carried the state Assembly seal and identified Pirikana Likivu Johnson as a California State Assembly Commissioner, was one of dozens distributed by the office of Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) to donors and constituents.

Pasadena defense attorney Stephen King said Johnson believed that the officers were trying to make an example of him.

"His position is that it's about something that's a lot bigger."

State law bars the use of the Assembly seal without authorization. It's also illegal to hand out or use a badge to impersonate a state official or police officer.

Pirikana's arrest in December set off a controversy in Sacramento, with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) calling for an inquiry and Dymally calling him a racist. In January, Nuñez banned the distribution of Assembly badges to the public.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, August 15, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part Page News Desk 2 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
Mervyn Dymally: An article in Tuesday's California section incorrectly reported that Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) called Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) a racist after Nuñez called for an inquiry into honorary badges issued by Dymally. Dymally made the remark about Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), whom Nuñez asked to investigate the badges. Dymally later released a statement saying he regretted the comment.

Dymally, 80, on Monday declined through a spokeswoman to comment. In previous interviews, he said the credentials were honorary "nothing" badges.

The Los Angeles district attorney's office investigated Dymally but declined to prosecute after his attorney collected about 40 of the badges.

Redondo Beach City Prosecutor Steve Kay said Dymally personally contacted the manufacturer to set the orders in motion and that his office ultimately paid more than $10,000 for 80 badges, half of which were not returned.

"It was just predictable that somebody was going to get in trouble using the badge," Kay said.

Johnson was stopped by the same officer in February and March of last year after leaving a dance club on the pier. In both instances, Johnson was belligerent, Kay said, saying, "You don't know who I am" and pulling out a police-style wallet containing the commissioner badge. On the second occasion, Johnson was charged with driving while drunk.

Prosecutors brought the other charges against Johnson in December, including impersonating a state official. He was convicted of all counts Friday after the jury deliberated for two hours. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Kay said he will be asking for a year in jail. Johnson is also on probation in federal court for identity theft, and this latest conviction could result in his incarceration for violating parole.

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