Convicted political fixer W. Patrick Moriarty testified Wednesday that he hired Long Beach City Councilman James H. Wilson as a personal consultant for $500 a month and used the lawmaker’s services to lobby for fireworks legislation and to introduce him to public officials.
Moriarty, an Orange County fireworks manufacturer who pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail fraud and faces a seven-year prison term starting later this month, told jurors in Wilson’s trial on 26 counts of mail fraud that the payments were eventually increased to $1,500 a month.
Wilson, a 16-year veteran of the Long Beach City Council, was indicted Jan. 23 on charges of accepting about $54,000 in hidden payments from Moriarty from September, 1978, to March, 1983.
Under questioning by Prosecutor Richard E. Drooyan, Moriarty said he did not pay Wilson directly but arranged for payments to be made to the councilman through firms in which he had an interest. He said he did not tell Wilson about the pay arrangements.
In addition to seeing that Wilson was paid, Moriarty said that he arranged a $10,000 loan for the councilman through the Bank of Irvine, and sent Wilson on expense-paid trips to Lake Tahoe and Sacramento to lobby a San Jose city councilman and state Sen. Diane Watson on behalf of legislation that would ban cities from prohibiting the sale of non-explosive fireworks.
Also, Moriarty said, he asked Wilson to contact several Los Angeles City Council members on behalf of a Baldwin Hills condominium project and requested him to hand out a package of material to his fellow Long Beach City Council members, including a model fireworks ordinance.
Moriarty, once the principal stockholder and president of Pyrotronics, a fireworks firm, estimated that approval of the state law banning cities from prohibiting the sale of non-explosive fireworks would have meant an additional $4 million to $5 million in additional business each year for his firms.
The state legislation backed by Moriarty was approved by the state Legislature, then vetoed by then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in the summer of 1982.
In opening statements in Wilson’s trial Wednesday, his attorney, Terry Joseph Amdur, said there was nothing illegal, immoral or corrupt in his client’s relationship with Moriarty.
“Quite honestly, he (Wilson) trusted Mr. Moriarty,” Amdur said. “It turns out that trust wasn’t returned.”