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Former Compton mayor runs for office while facing a new trial

Omar Bradley's conviction on corruption charges was reversed by an appeals court. If he wins back the mayor's office, he could quickly lose it again if convicted a second time.

January 25, 2013|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley at his sentencing in 2004. He was convicted of misappropriation and misuse of public funds along with former Councilman Amen Rahh and former City Manager John D. Johnson II. Bradley's conviction was later reversed. He is running for the mayor's office again -- but he also faces a new trial.
Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley at his sentencing in 2004. He was convicted… (Los Angeles Times )

Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, whose conviction on corruption charges was reversed by an appeals court last summer, is running for his old office again.

But he also faces a new trial, which could take place the same month as Compton's municipal election. That sets up the potential for Bradley to win office and then quickly lose it again if he is convicted a second time on charges of misappropriation of public funds.

Bradley filed to run for the mayor's seat on Tuesday, the last day for candidates to submit their petitions. Twelve candidates have filed to run against current Mayor Eric Perrodin.

Among the challengers are former child star Rodney Allen Rippy, civil rights attorney and former Black Panther B. Kwaku Duren, former Compton City Clerk Charles Davis, and longtime City Hall critics William Kemp and Lynn Boone.

Bradley, who has maintained that he is innocent and that prosecutors are unfairly targeting him, told The Times that he felt obligated to run, despite the pending criminal case, because of the fiscal crisis that has hamstrung the city over the last two years. He said citizens had asked him to run.

"I can't walk away with the people in need as they are," he said. "...My community needs me, and they should be able to choose freely who they believe is best able to fix this issue."

Bradley was convicted of misappropriation and misuse of public funds in 2004 along with former Councilman Amen Rahh and former City Manager John D. Johnson II. Prosecutors said the men had used their city-issued credit cards for personal items and "double dipped" by taking cash advances for city business expenses and then charging the items to their city credit cards.

The appeals court initially upheld Bradley's conviction. But in August the court reversed itself and overturned the conviction, based on a 2011 California Supreme Court decision that held that prosecutors must prove that public officials knew or should have known they were doing something illegal for them to be found guilty of misappropriation of funds.

The court left Rahh's and Johnson's convictions in place, but found that Bradley's original trial had not proved that he knew he was breaking the law.

The reversal of Bradley's conviction left him free to run for election, but the ruling left the door open for the district attorney's office to retry him on the same charges, which prosecutors decided to do. If convicted, he would once again be barred from holding public office.

Jennifer Snyder, assistant head deputy in the Los Angeles County district attorney's public integrity unit, said she did not think the case had changed in any "substantive" way.

"What it's being tried on, essentially, is a change in jury instructions," she said.

Bradley, a former schoolteacher, drew controversy during his term as mayor when he moved to disband the Compton Police Department and outsource law enforcement services to the county sheriff. He was dubbed "gangster mayor," a term that Bradley said Thursday was coined by his political enemies, although many reports have credited Bradley with giving himself the label.

The Compton city clerk's office had not yet certified Bradley's candidacy as of Thursday.

If his filing is approved, Bradley will enter a rematch with his old rival Perrodin, a deputy district attorney and former Compton police officer who unseated Bradley in 2001. Bradley sued to contest the results, and the seat flip-flopped between them until Perrodin prevailed.

Perrodin later launched an effort to reinstate the Police Department, but the City Council halted the effort when the city's multimillion-dollar deficit became apparent.

Perrodin could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Melissa Hebert, 39, who writes a blog called 2 Urban Girls that covers Compton and Inglewood, said she is excited to see Bradley in the race and believes he has widespread support in the community. "It just seems like a witch hunt," she said of the charges against him.

Donyetta Hamm, 41, a former Compton resident whose five children went to school in the local district, agreed that Bradley might have the support to get elected, but said she did not think he should run.

"I don't think it's right, what he did," she said. "Even though they think it's minor, it's not minor."

The April election will also be the first the city has held under new rules stemming from a voting-rights lawsuit brought by three Latina residents. A settlement in the case led the city to switch to by-district rather than at-large elections, a move intended to give Latino residents — who make up a majority of the city's population but a minority of eligible voters — a greater chance of electing a candidate of their choice.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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