Courts

Rong-Gong Lin II, Paul Pringle and Marisa Gerber
August 4, 2016

Two concert promoters accused in a bribery-and-embezzlement scheme involving raves at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will avoid serving any jail time under a plea bargain with prosecutors who acknowledged, for the second time, that they mishandled evidence in the high-profile corruption case.

Pasquale Rotella, who was indicted in 2012 on six felony counts, pleaded no contest Thursday afternoon to a single misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge. He will pay $150,000 to Los Angeles County and serve three years of probation.

Reza Gerami, who originally faced nine felony counts, will accept a similar deal Friday and pay restitution of $30,000, lawyer Larry M. Bakman said.

Settlement talks were underway for Todd DeStefano, the former events manager of the Coliseum. All three defendants were scheduled to stand trial this month.

The developments follow a series of embarrassing blunders by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office that defense lawyers said amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.
Rave promoter Reza Gerami leaves a downtown Los Angeles courthouse after a hearing earlier this week in the L.A. Coliseum corruption case, in which he is accused of bribery and conspiracy to commit embezzlement.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy last week rebuked prosecutors for repeatedly bungling the handling of evidence and said the district attorney’s office might be incapable of managing complex “paperwork” cases.

“You guys are just tripping over your feet and falling on your faces,” Kennedy told prosecutors Sean Hassett and Terrie Tengelsen, who work for the office’s public integrity division.

As part of her criticism, Kennedy recommended that county prosecutors seek advice on how to manage such cases from their federal counterparts in the U.S. attorney’s office.

A year ago, the district attorney’s office had to remove another prosecutor who was spearheading the Coliseum team, Dana Aratani, for mishandling evidence. The office was forced to restart its trial preparations from scratch.

Aratani was found to have improperly reviewed emails between one of the defendants and his lawyer, a violation of attorney-client privilege rules. To make sure the evidence wasn’t compromised again, Tengelsen said she had created a “firewall” with Aratani.

However, Tengelsen said last week that she did have contact with Aratani about the case, prompting Kennedy to declare, “Oh my God!”

Hassett later apologized to the judge, saying, “I’m terribly sorry…. We never intended that any of this happen. Obviously, it’s very embarrassing.”

A spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said Thursday that her office had no comment on the matter.

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