SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Federal prosecutors in San Francisco
dropped their 4½-year-old political corruption investigation of
former California Senate leader Don Perata, but government
attorneys in Sacramento are now pursuing the case, his attorney
Perata attorney George L. O'Connell said he met with Sacramento
prosecutors in late December and early January but they gave him no
explanation for why they were taking over the case. O'Connell said
he had "serious concerns" the government is moving too rapidly
toward bringing charges.
"The Eastern District is moving ahead very quickly and has not
given an indication they're ready to pull the trigger," he said in
a phone interview. "They are rushing the case ... not taking the
care this type of case would warrant."
Lawrence Brown, the acting U.S. Attorney in Sacramento, said the
FBI approached his office in the fall to review the case.
"This was not done at our initiation," said Brown, who took
over the office when McGregor Scott resigned at the beginning of
Scott said that two experienced prosecutors of political
corruption cases urged him to look into the case after FBI agents
investigating Perata approached them.
Scott said he agreed "out of an abundance of caution" to
examine the Perata matter. Scott, a Republican appointee, also
denied claims from Perata's camp that politics played any role in
picking up the probe of Perata, a prominent Democrat.
"If that were the case, we would have indicted him before I
left office," Scott said.
The U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco declined comment.
In a letter to U.S. House Judiciary members on Wednesday,
O'Connell said the federal government's actions are unjust and he
asked the committee to investigate.
A federal grand jury has been conducting a sprawling examination
of the East Bay Democrat's business dealings, and FBI agents have
interviewed political allies and campaign contributors who may have
benefited from his influence. The grand jury has taken testimony
and received thousands of pages of documents from government
agencies that had dealings with Perata, who was termed out of
office in 2008.
The conflict-of-interest investigation also has caught up an
Oakland lobbyist, campaign consultants and Perata's son, Nick.
Nick Perata's attorney, Elliot Peters, said Dave Anderson, the
second-highest ranking federal prosecutor in the San Francisco U.S.
attorney's office, told him that office was declining to pursue a
grand jury indictment. Meanwhile, Peters said, the Sacramento
office said it was taking over the investigation.
"I really think the DOJ should speak with one voice," Peters
Peters sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
complaining that he and his client had agreed to waive the statute
of limitations to allow the San Francisco prosecutors time to
complete the investigation and hear from the defense. Peters
complained those agreements were now being unfairly exploited by
prosecutors in Sacramento.
Acting U.S. Attorney Brown said the agreements apply to the
entire Justice Department.
The complex investigation has been under way since 2004.
The investigation has revolved around the flow of money between
outside entities seeking to curry favor with decision-makers,
Perata's friends and family, and the senator himself.
Among the questions is whether Perata received payments from
firms operated by family and friends. In some cases, those firms
had received payments from his campaign committees for what had
been described as political consulting work.
Prosecutors also examined whether Perata helped steer political
consulting work to his family and friends, and whether any of that
money was later kicked back to Perata.
In 2005, the grand jury issued a subpoena seeking e-mails from
Perata and eight staffers dating back six years.
O'Connell said federal prosecutors repeatedly told him that the
probe had found no evidence of bribe payments.
"Over the last five years, Sen. Perata and his family have
suffered irreparable harm to their personal reputations due to an
investigation with no clear purpose or direction," Perata
spokesman Jason Kinney said. "It's time to bring this unjust folly
to an end."
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