Scales of Justice

Justices rule that Los Angeles County prosecutors failed to produce key evidence showing defendants in a favorable light during grand jury hearings.

By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
April 25, 2013, 8:28 p.m.

Los Angeles County prosecutors failed to present grand jurors with evidence favorable to Irwindale officials before seeking an indictment in connection with lavish business trips that city officials took to New York, a panel of state appellate justices said Thursday.

The appeals court panel threw out the embezzlement counts against four Irwindale officials, who prosecutors said enjoyed meals at pricey restaurants, attended Broadway shows and saw baseball games paid for by the city during trips to meet with bond raters in an effort to obtain better bond ratings.

The appellate panel described the amount of money spent on the trips as “shocking” as well as “an abuse of the public trust and perhaps violative of certain criminal laws.” The panel’s opinion noted that one New York visit cost Irwindale more than $62,000 and included stays at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park and tickets to the musical “Wicked.”

But the panel’s three justices also ruled that prosecutors should have presented two significant documents to the grand jury that might have undermined the district attorney’s theory that the officials were “double dipping.”

A prosecutor said district attorney’s officials were reviewing the decision and would consider appealing or refiling charges against the Irwindale officials.

“We still believe that our case on the merits is strong,” said Assistant Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman.

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