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Councilman Denies Payments From Moriarty

Times Staff Writer

Long Beach City Councilman James Wilson testified in his trial on mail fraud charges Friday that he always favored legalizing “safe and sane” fireworks and that he never accepted anything from anyone to introduce legislation to permit sale of the non-explosive fireworks in his community.

The 58-year-old councilman said he backed the sale of fireworks as a means for charitable and nonprofit organizations in his district to raise much-needed money without having to invest their cash to do it.

Wilson is charged in a federal grand jury indictment with accepting $54,000 in hidden payments from W. Patrick Moriarty, a wealthy fireworks manufacturer, to introduce non-explosive fireworks legislation in Long Beach and to influence California legislators to vote for a measure banning cities from prohibiting its sale.

Hired as Consultant

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Moriarty, a convicted political fixer facing seven years in prison, testified earlier that he hired Wilson as a personal consultant for $500 a month--later increased to $1,500 monthly--and used the councilman’s services to lobby for fireworks and to introduce him to public officials.

Under questioning by defense attorney Elbert Sampson on Friday, Wilson said he went to work for Financial Loan Consultants in 1978 as a consultant and never knew until 1981 that Moriarty was half-owner of the firm.

His salary was increased to $1,500 a month, he said, because Moriarty wanted him “to do more work for him.” The work, according to his testimony, included the introduction of Moriarty to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Pat Russell to talk about a Baldwin Hills condominium project.

Considered a Favor

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Wilson testified that as a “favor” to Moriarty he went to Sacramento in September, 1981, to lobby state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) on a Moriarty-backed Senate bill that would have prohibited local bans on sale of non-explosive fireworks. The measure passed the Legislature but was vetoed by then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in September, 1982.

Watson testified Friday that she told Wilson she opposed the fireworks legislation. She said Wilson did not identify himself as a representative of the fireworks industry, but he did say she could expect political contributions if she supported the bill.

During their financial relationship ended in 1983, trial testimony shows that Moriarty arranged a bank loan for Wilson, personally loaned the councilman money that was never paid back and finally paid Wilson $4,500 in “severance pay.”

Admitted He Lied

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In cross-examination, prosecutor Richard E. Drooyan got Wilson to admit Friday that he had lied to investigators who contacted the councilman in May, 1984, to inquire about his relationship with Moriarty.

Wilson declared that he felt he had been misinformed about the reason for the interview. He said he was told that the meeting was to ask about Moriarty, but questions asked by the investigators made him feel threatened. After that, he said, he considered what he told the agents as mere conversation.

Drooyan also pressed Wilson about a $1,000 check he gave to Carson City Councilman Tom Mills in March, 1982. Wilson admitted that he did not tell Mills that Moriarty was the source of the campaign contribution, as required by law, and that he did not report that he subsequently had been reimbursed by Moriarty.

He was uncertain that the law required that reimbursements must be reported, Wilson said.

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