Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FPPC flap causes delay in Leary trial

by Tom Nadeau

The defense asked for and got Tuesday a postponement of the trial of besieged former Elk Grove City Council member Michael Leary that was to start that day in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Defense attorney William Portanova told the court that the defense needed more time to assess the possible impact of the state Fair Political Practices Commission’s surprise announcement last week that it was looking into allegations that Leary had committed serious violations of campaign finance rules.

Prosecutor Mike Blazina objected, saying that the flap over allegations Leary may have tried to disguise the true purpose of some $10,000 in campaign expenses has been well known for some time and discovery of documents was therefore not really an issue.

Judge Geoffrey A. Goodman decided, however, to reschedule Leary’s trial start date to 8:45 a.m.. Oct. 19, with a trial readiness conference to be held for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 13.

Leary faces four felony counts involving alleged fraud and bribery. He has pleaded innocent to all charges.

Blazina corrected the possible prison term Leary would face if convicted of all counts.

If convicted, Leary’s maximum possible penalty would be four years and four months in state prison. The minimum possible penalty Leary faces would be a period of probation, Blazina said.

The FPPC announcement calls for “a full investigation” into Leary’s allegedly illegal financial activities and, “if found guilty, because of his pattern and practice of unlawful behavior regarding his council seat, that he be punished to the extent of the law.”

The FPPC has asked the Sacramento court to force one of Leary’s business associates to cough up documents pertaining to Leary’s 2008 campaign expenditures
The FPPC is particularly keen to see documents relating to an allegedly fraudulent payment of $10,751.95 from his campaign committee account to the Circle Seven Wine & Liquor store to pay for alcoholic beverages for a campaign event.

The store was owned by Lababedy Hakmat. Hakmat previously had been a co-owner with Leary in another liquor store, “Ernie’s,” in Carmichael.

Lababedy allegedly then used that 10 grand "to facilitate payment, on behalf of Mr. Leary, of rent on a past due lease contract belonging to Mr. Leary's ex-girlfriend," the report said.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Leary – obviously miffed at the fresh twist in his legal situation – said the new FPPC wrinkle showed “they” – the other side, his detractors – in his long-running political drama had clearly concluded they were going to lose the criminal trial.


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