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Former Coliseum official invokes 5th Amendment to grand jury

Ronald Lederkramer, the facility's former finance director, answers questions only after a judge grants him limited immunity, transcripts of the proceedings show.

April 25, 2012|By Paul Pringle, Rong-Gong Lin II and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Ronald Lederkramer listens to questions during the Commissioners meeting.
Ronald Lederkramer listens to questions during the Commissioners meeting. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles…)

Invoking his right against self-incrimination, the former finance director of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum declined to testify before a grand jury about alleged corruption at the stadium, then answered questions after a judge granted him limited immunity, transcripts of the proceedings show.

Ronald Lederkramer, once the Coliseum's No. 2 executive, left the Coliseum late last year after The Times reported that he used his personal credit card to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars in stadium equipment to pocket valuable reward points. He also billed the taxpayer-owned stadium for thousands of dollars in gasoline purchases even though his job required little driving, according to interviews and Coliseum documents.

"Is it your intention, based on the advice of legal counsel, to assert your right not to incriminate yourself at this time?" Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman asked Lederkramer during a March 8 grand jury session, the transcripts show.

"Yes, it is," Lederkramer said.

Lederkramer has not been accused of wrongdoing in the district attorney's investigation that led last month to criminal charges against three former Coliseum managers. An ex-contractor for the stadium and two prominent concert promoters who staged raves at the stadium and the companion Sports Arena were also charged.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg on Tuesday released more than 650 pages of testimony before the grand jury, a record that mostly reflects Times reports on financial irregularities at the Coliseum and the allegations spelled out in the subsequent indictment naming the six defendants.

Lederkramer was called to testify two weeks before the first arrests were made in the case and quickly asserted his 5th Amendment right. He was then taken before a judge who ordered him to testify on condition that his statements could not be used against him in a criminal prosecution, as long as he did not commit perjury.

Later in the day, Lederkramer testified at length about former General Manager Patrick Lynch, ex-events manager Todd DeStefano, former technology manager Leopold Caudillo Jr. and one-time janitorial contractor Tony Estrada. He also answered questions about the two rave promoters, Reza Gerami, chief executive of the company Go Ventures Inc., and Pasquale Rotella, head of Insomniac Inc.

In a brief telephone interview Tuesday, Lederkramer said, "I can't answer," when asked why he took the 5th.

Lynch has pleaded guilty to a single count of conflict of interest to avoid a possible prison sentence on other charges and has agreed to return $385,000 in alleged kickbacks he received from Estrada, who is still at large. The other defendants have pleaded not guilty.

In response to the release of the transcripts, DeStefano's attorneys said the proceedings were "one-sided" and that their client was a scapegoat for mismanagement of the Coliseum.

In closing remarks before the grand jury, Huntsman said the alleged crimes involved a betrayal of the public trust and theft of government money. The Coliseum is on the brink of insolvency.

"It was for our benefit to keep the Coliseum running and operating for the benefit of all the people who would come to events," Huntsman said.

The promoters are accused of paying nearly $2 million in bribes to DeStefano for his help in producing rave concerts at low cost. Caudillo was charged with directing more than $20,000 in Coliseum funds to a company he controlled.

The Coliseum's governing commission, made up of representatives of the city, county and state, ran out of money to pay for upgrades to the stadium it promised its main tenant, USC, whose football team plays there. The commission is now preparing to turn over control of the venue to the private school.

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