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Private investigator to stand trial in alleged conspiracy to hide a witness

February 22, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles judge Wednesday ordered a private investigator who worked for high-profile criminal defendants including Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder to stand trial for allegedly conspiring to pay off an alleged rape victim.

Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito ruled there was sufficient evidence to try Bradley G. Miller, along with George Izquierdo, a Realtor whose son is charged with the rape, and Camilo Valentin, Izquierdo's employee.

Alex Izquierdo was represented by defense lawyer Mark Geragos, who has long worked with Miller, including during the child molestation prosecution of Jackson, which ended in acquittal, and the successful shoplifting prosecution of actress Ryder.

Alex Izquierdo is charged with 24 counts of rape, torture, false imprisonment and other crimes for allegedly abusing his live-in girlfriend. She told police he had burned her with an iron, sodomized her and threatened to kill her.

Miller and the other two men are accused of conspiring to take the woman to Las Vegas on the day in 2005 that she was to testify against Izquierdo, who faces life in prison if convicted.

Geragos is not accused of involvement in the alleged conspiracy or payoff. He declined to comment on Miller's case.

In court Wednesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank Tavelman presented telephone, financial and other records detailing an elaborate conspiracy to spirit away the woman and buy her silence.

The woman -- The Times generally does not identify victims of sexual assaults -- told district attorney investigators that Valentin had met her at a Highland Park laundromat and an Alhambra Jamba Juice weeks before the trial and told her that George Izquierdo would take care of her for the rest of her life if she did not testify against his son.

On the morning she was to testify, the woman met Valentin at an Alhambra Toys-R-Us store, and the two drove to Las Vegas, prosecutors said. Tavelman said Valentin's diary, seized at his residence, contained an entry saying it would be "an interesting day with [woman's name]. I hope I can pull it off."

While driving to Las Vegas, Valentin spoke with Miller and George Izquierdo, phone records show. Valentin and the woman stayed in the Bally's and Aladdin hotels, where they were joined by the woman's new boyfriend.

Tavelman said Valentin bought the woman and her boyfriend bus tickets to Arizona, where the boyfriend had relatives. But Tavelman said the couple instead went to Florida to stay with the woman's sister.

Prosecutors said Valentin gave the woman $2,500 cash, and George Izquierdo and co-conspirators wired her more than $9,000. Tavelman presented bank surveillance photographs in court of Miller cashing a $5,000 check from George Izquierdo, then depositing $4,000 into Valentin's account.

Defense attorneys said the evidence against their clients was weak. George Izquierdo's attorney, Harland Braun, noted that his client had hired Miller to work for him on a civil case before his son was accused of rape, so it was normal for them to speak frequently on the phone. Furthermore, Braun said, the phone conversations with Miller were normal behavior for "a father defending his son."

Mark Werksman, representing Miller, said "there is as much evidence of an extortion attempt against these men" as there is of a conspiracy by the defendants. Werksman said that Valentin made more than 3,000 phone calls in the weeks of the alleged conspiracy, and about 60 to 70 were to Miller.

"The burden shouldn't be on me to explain every call; all you've given us is smoke, there is no fire," he said.

Miller made news during the 2004 child molestation case against Jackson, when police searched his office. Jackson's defense lawyers called the raid a breach of attorney-client privilege.

Alex Izquierdo's trial is pending.

peter.hong@latimes.com

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