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Hedgecock’s Lawyer Asks for Mistrial : Late Introduction of Witness Could ‘Undermine’ Case

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Times Staff Writer

Mayor Roger Hedgecock’s attorney, Michael Pancer, is seeking a mistrial in the case against the mayor because of a last-minute witness scheduled to testify today with information that Pancer said “completely undermines” Hedgecock’s defense.

The defense attorney charged that Hedgecock’s rights to a fair trial and an adequate defense were being violated by the late introduction of a prosecution witness without giving the defense adequate time to investigate the evidence before it is presented.

Pancer filed a request for a mistrial or a delay in the testimony of prosecution witness Harvey Schuster, the president a Sorrento Valley investment firm. Schuster, Pancer contends, may testify about a conversation in which Hedgecock discussed the alleged role of J. David (Jerry) Dominelli in financing the public relations firm of Tom Shepard. Hedgecock’s indictment on felony perjury and conspiracy charges alleges Hedgecock lied about his knowledge of the Dominelli-Shepard financial ties.

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Pancer, in a brief filed Friday, said the last-minute disclosure of Schuster as a prosecution witness warrants the declaration of a mistrial by Superior Court Judge William Todd when Hedgecock’s trial resumes today after a recess of more than three weeks.

Contends Rights Violated

Under laws governing discovery, Schuster’s testimony violates Hedgecock’s right to be advised of important evidence and witnesses against him, Pancer contended in his filing.

Pancer learned about Schuster’s scheduled testimony last week from Assistant Dist. Atty. Richard Huffman. Huffman said Tuesday that he would not oppose a delay in Schuster’s testimony if Todd orders it, but he rejected any attempt by Pancer to cause a mistrial because of the recently announced witness.

Prosecutors said that Schuster will probably testify that Hedgecock had asked him for a $24,000 loan and had suggested a method by which the loan would not be recorded on the mayor’s financial disclosure forms.

But Huffman and other prosecution attorneys would not discuss Pancer’s claim that Schuster could do “irreparable damage to his (Pancer’s) credibility with the jury and his presentation of the case,” by contradicting statements made in the attorney’s opening statements that no witness could testify that Hedgecock knew of Shepard-Dominelli financial ties except Dick Carlson, Hedgecock’s political foe in the 1984 mayoral campaign.

Huffman said that when Schuster was first interviewed by district attorney investigators on Dec. 18, he told the investigators he had personal knowledge of Hedgecock’s activities and had documents backing up his statements. The documents were turned over to the investigators Dec. 26 and, Huffman said, he informed Pancer in a telephone call the next day of the “significant new information” obtained against his client, Hedgecock.

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No Objection to Delay

The prosecutor said Tuesday that he planned to call Schuster as a witness this afternoon, “and it will be difficult, inconvenient, if there is a delay because I have no other witness to take his place. However, I will not object. There are motions that can be filed and other matters to handle.”

In a brief filed Monday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Morley said that Schuster would testify that in asking for a loan from Schuster in March, 1982, Hedgecock had said that Schuster’s check should be made payable to Homeowners Management Corp., a firm owned by Hedgecock’s wife, not to Hedgecock himself.

Morley, in his brief, said that Hedgecock’s action in trying to hide Schuster’s loan, “is indicative of his willingness to utilize devious tactics to avoid the inclusion of required information in required statements filed by the defendant”--Hedgecock.

According to a county grand jury indictment, Hedgecock, Dominelli, Shepard and Dominelli’s former business executive in the J. David & Co. investment firm, Nancy Hoover, conspired to launder large sums of campaign money for Hedgecock’s mayoral campaign through Shepard’s firm and Hedgecock attempted to hide his financial ties with Dominelli.

Hedgecock’s attorney, in asking for a mistrial or a delay in Schuster’s testimony, said he expected Schuster to relate a conversation with Hedgecock in which the mayor allegedly discussed the role of Dominelli in financing Shepard’s firm.

Pancer also said Schuster was expected to testify that Hedgecock had said that Dominelli was “putty in Nancy Hoover’s hands.” Hoover, a former Del Mar mayor and a longtime friend of Hedgecock, gave Hedgecock his first political boost when she was instrumental in his appointment as Del Mar city attorney more than a decade ago.

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Schuster is president of California Investment Counsel Inc., a Sorrento Valley real estate management and investment firm. His partner, Jean Kauth, earlier testified in the Hedgecock trial that Hedgecock had told campaign fund-raisers in 1982 that he had the use of Hoover’s limousine and the Dominelli investment firm’s reserved box at the Del Mar Racetrack for use in wooing contributors.

Todd is expected to rule early today on whether Schuster will be allowed to take the stand this afternoon or whether Pancer’s petition for a mistrial or delay will be granted.

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