Hedgecock Reportedly Set for 2nd Trial as Talks Fail
Efforts to negotiate out-of-court settlements for Mayor Roger Hedgecock’s legal problems were declared dead Tuesday by participants. Hedgecock is expected to push for a new trial on charges that he conspired to illegally funnel money into his 1983 mayoral campaign.
The mayor is scheduled to appear today before Superior Court Judge Barbara Gamer and is expected to name Las Vegas attorney Oscar B. Goodman as his new defense counsel, a move that some say will scuttle weeks of intense, private discussions about a possible settlement to the mayor’s criminal and civil woes.
Negotiators sought a plea bargain for 15 felony conspiracy and perjury counts facing Hedgecock, plus a settlement of a $1.2-million civil lawsuit filed against the mayor and several supporters by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).
At one point, the talks included 12 attorneys and prominent San Diego businessmen such as insurance executive Malin Burnham, baseball executive Ballard Smith and banker Murray Galinson. Plea-bargain discussions began shortly after Hedgecock’s first trial on 13 of the felony conspiracy and perjury charges ended in a mistrial Feb. 13. The jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction on every count.
But last week the discussions stalled on at least three key points, and all sides Tuesday said they were ready to throw in the towel.
“There are no negotiations,” said Michael Pancer, who represented Hedgecock during the trial and now wants off the case. “There’s been no bargain and that’s the end of it.”
FPPC Chairman Dan Stanford and a spokesman for San Diego County Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller both confirmed late Tuesday that no out-of-court settlement had been reached.
Galinson, one of the more optimistic people involved in the negotiations, said Tuesday, “I don’t know if a settlement is possible. I am certainly not encouraged.”
Hedgecock declined to discuss the apparent failure of plea-bargain talks, but J. Michael McDade, his chief of staff, said:
“I think that a very sincere effort was made by a number of well-intentioned people in the community to put together an arrangement by which this matter can come to an end. That effort apparently has failed, and the matter will proceed to trial. The mayor is very comfortable with the decision.”
McDade said Hedgecock was to hire Goodman by today and that the Las Vegas attorney was to appear at the hearing in Gamer’s court. McDade also said that Goodman will likely spurn any further attempts for a plea bargain.
“Roger’s indicated to me that that is his (Goodman’s) attitude, yes,” McDade said. “He’s a trial specialist, not a negotiator.”
Goodman represented U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne, who was convicted in August of tax evasion charges.
Goodman has also represented Anthony Spilotro, considered by federal authorities to be the Las Vegas agent of Midwestern crime families. Other clients with reported mob ties included Meyer Lansky, the late Nick Civella of Kansas City, Mo., and Chris Petti of San Diego, who is described as a close associate of Frank (The Bomp) Bompensiero.
Before the breakdown, negotiators were able to forge a tentative agreement that called for Hedgecock to resign in exchange for the district attorney dropping 14 felony perjury charges.
An unusual “trial by transcript” would be permitted for the mayor on the remaining felony conspiracy charge, with the understanding he would be found guilty and the charge reduced to a misdemeanor at some point.
There was also a general agreement that the FPPC would assess Hedgecock a $200,000 fine, but actually collect substantially less. Any criminal plea-bargain hinged on a settlement in the FPPC suit.
But McDade said the discussions “didn’t go far enough,” and negotiations snagged on three key points. According to sources close to the negotiations, those points were:
- How quickly any felony conviction in the criminal case would be reduced to a misdemeanor. Hedgecock wanted the charge reduced immediately, effectively leaving him without any felony on his record. The district attorney’s position, however, is to keep the felony conviction on the books for at least six months before having it reduced to a misdemeanor.
- The amount of the fine to be paid for an out-of-court settlement with the FPPC. Businessmen working on a solution for the civil suit proposed that Hedgecock pay a $50,000 fine, while Stanford reportedly was fixed on collecting no less than $100,000.
- How to deal with one of Hedgecock’s co-defendants in the civil suit. The FPPC has also sued Peter Q. Davis, president of the Bank of Commerce and Hedgecock’s 1983 campaign treasurer. Businessmen proposed dropping Davis altogether from the suit, while Stanford reportedly wanted to fine Davis at least $5,000.
McDade said that Hedgecock became angry because some of the negotiations centered on how long he could be kept out of office after resigning.
According to the sources, Hedgecock was pressing for a deal that would let him immediately run again for his seat. Other negotiators, however, were seeking ways to keep Hedgecock out of public office until at least 1988.
“I think he became very angry the longer this went on with the overtly political nature of the proposals,” said McDade. “It became apparent to him, I think, that the principal goal of some people was not to bring this matter to a close but to try and keep him out of public service forever, or for a substantial period of time that would cause the public support he has to dwindle.”
Mayor Called Confident
McDade also said that Hedgecock, who avoided conviction by the thinnest of margins, is confident he can win acquittal in the second trial.
Asked why Hedgecock would not accept the demands of Miller and Stanford to spare the city another trial of its mayor, McDade said, “He thought he would be giving up too much and not benefiting the city that much.”
Stanford said “the handwriting began to appear on the walls” on Monday that no settlement was in the offing. He added that he doesn’t expect settlement discussions to resume.