A judge refused Monday to dismiss a case involving alleged bribery and kickbacks by high-level Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum employees and music promoters or to recuse the District Attorney’s Office from trying the case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said she believes “a fair trial can still be had,” despite defense attorneys’ allegations that privileged documents had been reviewed by prosecutors in the case against Coliseum events manager Todd DeStefano and rave music promoters Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami, and that investigators for the D.A.’s office had lied about who had access to that information.
Kennedy said she didn’t think there was “a deliberate conspiracy on the part of the D.A.’s office.” However, she said it was “shocking” to her that the D.A. did not have policies in place to segregate privileged communications from other documents.
Prosecutors are not entitled to “open emails, read them first and then decide whether they are privileged,” Kennedy said, warning that this issue is likely to come up again, particularly in a City of Industry corruption case.
Defense attorneys earlier argued that Deputy District Attorney Dana Aratani, formerly the lead prosecutor on the case, had violated their clients’ rights by reading emails sent by Rotella to his lawyer. Aratani and an investigator were then voluntarily removed from the case by the D.A.’s office.
Motions argued by the defense today called for the entire office of prosecutors to be recused from trying the case.
“The harm is done. I can’t guess what they know and don’t know,” attorney Gary Jay Kaufman told the court. He accused prosecutors of effectively telling the court, “We got caught cheating, but we want to pass the test anyway.”
Prosecutors from the D.A.’s Public Integrity Division, who are now handling the case, argued that there was no evidence that the information spread from Aratani to others in the office.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit embezzlement — among other counts — in a scheme in which DeStefano allegedly provided access to the Coliseum and low rates in exchange for more than $1.8 million in kickbacks from Rotella, CEO of Insomniac Events, and Gerami, owner of Go Ventures Inc.
Patrick Lynch, a former Coliseum general manager who was indicted along with former technical manager Leopold Caudillo and the three remaining defendants, pleaded guilty in March 2012 to a felony conflict of interest charge. Caudillo also entered a plea and is due back in court on Aug. 15.
DeStefano, Rotella and Gerami are set to return to court June 24, when a date for trial is expected to be set.
Gerami’s attorney also alleged that his client was “surreptitiously recorded” by an investigator for the prosecution without benefit of counsel and said he intends to file a motion regarding that “outrageous behavior.” A prosecutor told the judge that a transcript of that recording would make clear that the defense’s allegations were false.
—City News Service
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