THE HEDGECOCK CASE: A chronology of the events leading to the felony conviction of San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock
The decline and fall of San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock was played out in a public drama that began when he was at the zenith of his power and climaxed when a Superior Court jury of eight women and four men convicted him on 12 counts of perjury and one count of conspiracy.
A chronology of the drama:
The Beginning: J. David
Feb. 9, 1984: The facade around the fabled J. David & Co. investment empire cracks when an investor files a $1.2-million lawsuit against the firm, claiming that owner J. David (Jerry) Dominelli had failed to return a $1.2-million deposit.
Also caught up in the imbroglio is Nancy Hoover, Dominelli’s girlfriend and second in command at J. David. She is a former mayor of Del Mar and close friend of Hedgecock’s, and provides the link in what prosecutors later proved was a conspiracy to illegally funnel thousands of dollars into the 1983 Hedgecock mayoral campaign.
Feb. 10, 1984: Hoover has invested heavily in the Tom Shepard & Associates consulting firm, but now, desperate for money, agrees to accept $10,000 in cash and the promise of $20,000 more for her limited-partnership share.
The firm was started in January, 1983, by Shepard, another former Del Mar council member and a friend of Hoover. Shepard was also a staff member for then-county Supervisor Hedgecock. Hedgecock hired Shepard’s fledgling firm to help guide him to the mayor’s post.
Feb. 12, 1984: Hedgecock holds a meeting with his close advisers at his State Street home. Present are Shepard; J. Michael McDade, his chief of staff; Nancy MacHutchin, his fund-raiser; Peter Aylward, his campaign treasurer, and supporter Larry Cushman.
To help distance the mayor from the growing J. David controversy, the group decides that he must repay a $130,000, oral-agreement loan that Hoover made in order for Hedgecock to remodel his home. In late 1983, Hedgecock signed over a $50,000 account J. David account to Hoover as partial repayment, an investment he had not properly disclosed. Hedgecock now decides to repay the remaining $80,000 through a bank loan secured on Cushman’s guarantee.
Prosecutors later dub this meeting “Black Sunday” and say it began a deliberate cover-up of Hedgecock’s illegal financial ties with Hoover and Shepard.
Feb. 17, 1984: The first news stories about Hedgecock’s J. David account appear. At first, the mayor says the account is small, but he later admits it was $50,000--one of the many inconsistencies that were to mark his initial explanations to the press.
Feb. 24, 1984: It is reported that Hedgecock’s initial deposit into the J. David account--$10,000 in December, 1982--was never reported on financial disclosure forms as required by law. McDade calls the omission an oversight. Three days later, Hedgecock files an amendment listing the $10,000 deposit and, angered by the growing controversy over his finances, says, “The story is over. There will be no more quotes.”
Feb. 27, 1984: Prompted by newspaper stories and telephone calls from San Diego, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) begins an investigation into Hedgecock’s finances.
March 12, 1984: At an early morning press conference, Hedgecock breaks his self-imposed silence and gives reporters details of his $130,000 loan from Hoover.
April 9, 1984: The district attorney’s office opens a criminal investigation after hearing from the FPPC that Hoover’s investment in the Shepard consulting firm was $337,000.
April 17, 1984: The county grand jury issues a flurry of subpoenas. One subpoena goes to Shepard, asking for the consultant’s business records.
May 1, 1984: Shepard misses deadline to turn over the records but later agrees not to fight the request and provides the documents.
May 22, 1984: Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller files a civil suit against Hedgecock, Shepard and others, claiming the mayor and his political consultant concealed as much as $357,000 in “laundered” campaign contributions from the bankrupt J. David & Co. and Hoover.
The suit, filed two weeks before the June 5 primary, was the first official action taken against the mayor and the first glimpse of the magnitude of the conspiracy. Miller said he filed the suit “in order for the voters to be completely informed.” Hedgecock said the suit was the work of a conspiracy among Miller, Union-Tribune newspaper publisher Helen Copley and Maureen O’Connor, whom Hedgecock defeated in the 1983 election to become mayor. O’Connor had been endorsed by Miller and Copley.
June 5, 1984: Hedgecock finishes first in the primary, but fails to receive the majority needed to win reelection and is forced into a November runoff against La Jolla businessman Dick Carlson.
June 30, 1984: The first grand jury looking into Hedgecock’s finances is dismantled without returning an indictment. Hedgecock, who has blasted the group because it contains two political foes, says the lack of indictments means there is no case against him.
July, 1984: Hedgecock begins taking private lessons from a former professor of acting to help him portray a greater warmth and sincerity. Also during July, Hedgecock begins holding small private breakfast meetings in his State Street home to give his explanation about his finances to supporters, a move he hopes will consolidate his political base.
July 30, 1984: A second grand jury begins hearing the first of 82 witnesses in the Hedgecock affair.
Sept. 19, 1984: The grand jury indicts Hedgecock, Hoover, Shepard and Dominelli on felony conspiracy and perjury charges alleging that they schemed to circumvent city campaign donation limits.
Sept. 27, 1984: Two top officials of the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce publicly call for Hedgecock to resign. Lee Grissom, chamber president, and Bruce Moore, chairman of the chamber board, say the controversy surrounding the mayor has harmed the reputation of San Diego. Grissom had been considered one of Hedgecock’s closest advisers.
Sept. 28, 1984: Hedgecock and his three co-defendants plead not guilty to all charges.
Oct. 15, 1984: The FPPC, concluding a seven-month probe of Hedgecock’s finances, files a record $1.2-million suit against the mayor, Shepard, Hoover, Dominelli and others. The agency cited more than 450 violations of the city’s campaign laws and asked for nearly $1 million from Hedgecock alone in penalties.
Nov. 6, 1984: Despite the indictment and FPPC suit, Hedgecock wages a vigorous campaign and wins reelection with 58% of the vote.
Nov. 8, 1984: Grissom, of the Chamber of Commerce, discloses that Hedgecock asked him to help make a deal with the district attorney to call off the grand jury investigation during late summer. Grissom says that Hedgecock wanted to know if the district attorney would halt the probe if Hedgecock resigned. Grissom says he never broached the subject with the district attorney. Hedgecock labeled Grissom’s disclosure “absolutely and totally false.”
Nov. 15, 1984: The grand jury again indicts Hedgecock, charging him with two more counts of perjury because he did not report a $3,000 payment from Dominelli in December, 1981. The new charge came as attorneys were interviewing prospective jurors for the trial on the September indictment.
The mayor had pushed for an early trial. Shepard, Dominelli and Hoover won postponements.
The First Trial
Dec. 3, 1984: Opening arguments begin in the Hedgecock trial.
Jan. 14, 1985: The prosecution calls a surprise witness: Sorrento Valley investment counselor Harvey Schuster, who testifies that Hedgecock told him as early as November, 1981, that he knew Dominelli and Hoover would be investing in the Shepard firm to help his potential mayoral bid.
Schuster says Hedgecock made the statement while the two were driving back from an appointment with a Century City attorney to talk about Hedgecock’s financial woes. At that time, Hedgecock was a county supervisor and Schuster was with a company hoping to win approval to develop the county’s bayfront parking lots.
Schuster says that he paid the $500 bill for the lawyer’s appointment and considered buying some condominiums from Hedgecock to help the supervisor out of a financial jam. When that deal fell through, Schuster says, Hedgecock asked for a $24,000 loan that was never consummated.
Jan. 17, 1985: Defense witness Joseph Cerrell, a well-known political consultant from Los Angeles, bolsters the mayor’s case when he testifies that a contract between Hedgecock’s 1983 election committee and the Shepard consulting firm was “a very generous” one. He also disputes prosecutors’ contentions that Shepard should have charged Hedgecock for overhead. Dominelli and Hoover paid for the overhead with their investments.
Jan. 22, 1985: Hedgecock stuns the court and takes the stand. The mayor emphatically denies that he had any knowledge of the so-called conspiracy and said the perjury charges stemmed from “good-faith” mistakes. Hedgecock testifies for nearly 6 1/2 hours over three days. Later, several jurors would say Hedgecock’s performance on the stand persuaded them to vote for conviction; one of them called the mayor a “buffoon.”
Feb. 4, 1985: In his closing arguments, prosecutor Richard D. Huffman tells jurors that Hedgecock’s “raw ambition” drove him to “cheat . . . and callously lie” to win the 1983 election.
Feb. 5, 1985: Hedgecock’s attorney, Michael Pancer, in his closing statements, says the district attorney’s office was guilty of “smear tactics” and “character assassination” in bringing its case. He also admits some reporting errors on Hedgecock’s financial disclosure forms but says they were “good-faith” errors.
Feb. 6, 1985: Instructions are read to the jury, and it begins its deliberations.
Feb. 13, 1985: Jury votes 11-1 for conviction on all counts. Superior Court Judge William L. Todd Jr. declares a mistrial. Huffman declares that the district attorney will retry the case.
Feb. 20, 1985: The district attorney’s office files two additional felony perjury charges against Hedgecock, alleging that Hedgecock failed to disclose the $500 lawyer’s fee paid by Schuster and a $3,000 check from J. David & Co. on his 1981 Statement of Economic Interest. A misdemeanor conflict of interest charge is also filed against the mayor.
Feb. 26, 1985: Elizabeth Brafford, Hedgecock’s press secretary, resigns, saying she was “eager for a new challenge.” Two days later, Michel Anderson, Hedgecock’s assistant for business and economic development, resigns. They are the first of Hedgecock’s key aides to resign.
March 8, 1985: Pancer files a motion in court asking to be relieved as Hedgecock’s defense attorney. Pancer said that continuing would cause him “severe economic hardship” because the mayor still owed him “considerable funds.”
March 13, 1985: Three prominent San Diego businessmen begin independent, behind-the-scenes efforts to craft a plea bargain. Padres President Ballard Smith, banker Murray Galinson and businessman Malin Burnham meet with Hedgecock and Miller. The group receives enough encouragement to continue their work.
April 10, 1985: The on-again, off-again resignation negotiations are declared dead. Hedgecock announces that he has hired Las Vegas attorney Oscar B. Goodman to represent him. Goodman, who has defended reputed mobsters, is considered one of the country’s top defense attorneys.
April 13, 1985: J. Michael McDade, Mayor Roger Hedgecock’s chief of staff, resigns, the third key Hedgecock aide to quit.
May 2, 1985: Huffman, the lead prosecutor in Hedgecock’s case, is appointed to the Superior Court bench. Charles Wickersham of the district attorney’s office takes his place.
June 24, 1985: J. David (Jerry) Dominelli, whose financial fantasy was the inadvertent cause of Hedgecock’s woes, appears in federal court, enfeebled by a stroke suffered in jail, to hear a judge sentence him to 20 years in prison.
July 31, 1985: Jury selection begins in Hedgecock’s felony retrial. By Aug. 14, attorneys for both sides had selected eight women and four men to decide the mayor’s fate.
The panel includes three San Diego State University students, a retired Air Force recruiter, a Navy court reporter, a receptionist for Gemco, an engineer, a housewife and a project manager for a computer systems house. Three of the jurors said they enjoy surfing, one of Hedgecock’s more publicized pastimes.
Aug. 20, 1985: Opening arguments begin.
Sept. 3, 1985: Former news anchorman Tom Lawrence testifies that he coached Hedgecock in late 1981 and early 1982 on how to improve his deportment on television, but the $2,000 bill for the sessions was paid by the Shepard consulting firm. This evidence, not presented in the first trial, proved that Hedgecock knew that Shepard’s consulting firm was underwriting his nascent mayoral campaign, prosecutors argued.
Sept. 8, 1985: Local investment counselor Schuster, a surprise witness in the first trial, tells the court that Hedgecock told him in late 1981 that Dominelli planned to back the consulting firm so it could run the mayor’s campaign. The statement is the only direct evidence linking Hedgecock to the conspiracy. During the testimony, Hedgecock mutters “You liar!” under his breath while sitting at the defense table.
Sept. 25, 1985: Prosecutors rested their case after calling 61 witnesses over 17 days. Goodman stuns the court by resting his defense of Hedgecock without calling a single witness.
Oct. 3, 1985: The jury, sequestered in a hotel, begins deliberations.