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Charges dropped in campaign finance case against L.A. attorney

A federal judge dismisses the most serious counts against Pierce O'Donnell. He rules that prosecutors had improperly charged the attorney with two violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

June 09, 2009|Scott Glover

In a blow to federal prosecutors, a judge Monday tossed out the most serious charges in an illegal campaign finance case against prominent Los Angeles attorney Pierce O'Donnell.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero ruled that prosecutors had improperly charged O'Donnell with two violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles alleged that O'Donnell violated the act by soliciting employees to make contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign of John Edwards and then reimbursing them for the donations.

But Otero found that the law prosecutors cited does not prohibit such activity.

"The charges were dismissed because the U.S. attorney overreached in an attempt to use the law far more broadly than its terms allow," O'Donnell's Washington, D.C.-based attorney, George Terwilliger, said in a prepared statement.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien, said prosecutors were reviewing Otero's 11-page order and were considering their options, including the possibility of seeking a review by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Otero let stand a third charge that O'Donnell "knowingly and willfully" caused the treasurer of a political action committee to make false statements about the contributions in question.

Before Monday's ruling, members of O'Donnell's defense team had questioned whether the well-known Democratic attorney was being targeted for prosecution because he represents victims of Hurricane Katrina in a lawsuit against the government and has been a vocal critic of then-President Bush's policies on civil rights in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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scott.glover@latimes.com

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