An Orange County grand jury has indicted attorney James Toledano, the former chairman of the county's Democratic Party and a three-time Assembly candidate, on two felony counts related to an alleged extortion scheme.
The jury on Friday also indicted one of Toledano's clients, former personal trainer Michael Earl Roberts, on the same charges.
Roberts, 44, allegedly made dozens of harassing and threatening phone calls to a former client and her friends between 2006 and 2008 and threatened to sue her, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
Roberts said he was going to "destroy" her by having false and damaging stories about her printed in various media, including the Los Angeles Times, prosecutors said.
The woman, who had employed the trainer for 10 years, filed a harassment lawsuit against Roberts in 2008, according to court documents.
Toledano, who was representing Roberts, allegedly met with the client's attorney and indicated that Roberts wanted $350,000 in exchange for not releasing information that he claimed would damage the woman, according to the district attorney's office.
Toledano's attorney, David E. Swanson, said that when Toledano met with the woman's lawyer, he was trying to find a settlement amount for the lawsuit.
"That's typically how settlements are resolved," Swanson said. "He had legitimate information that he was trying to resolve the lawsuit, and at no time was he attempting to extort anyone."
Toledano and Roberts face a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in state prison. Each is free on $100,000 bail, and both are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
This is not the first time Toledano, 65, has been accused of wrongdoing. In 1996, as chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, he came under fire when he accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution on the party's behalf and spent it without authorization on last-minute mailers for the party's candidates.
Toledano said at the time that he simply made a mistake, but he was fined. The next year, he decided to withdraw his candidacy for chairman.