Won't Answer Grand Jury Questions : Tarzana Man's Bail Plea Rejected

From Times Wire Services

A federal appeals court Monday rejected a request for freedom by a Tarzana man, who has been jailed for more than a month for refusing to answer a federal grand jury's questions about a Sherman Oaks man's alleged ties to organized crime.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a plea by Morton Goodman, 51, for release on bail while he appeals the civil contempt citation that put him behind bars. The appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling that Goodman's appeal was "frivolous."

Goodman was imprisoned July 16 because he refused to answer the questions of a federal grand jury, convened by the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force. U.S. District Judge William Keller ordered Goodman jailed for the duration of the grand jury's term, or until he answers the panel's questions.

Goodman told reporters he refused to cooperate with the grand jury because he believed the panel was investigating the banking activities of his close friend, John DeMattia, 50, of Sherman Oaks.

DeMattia is one of 15 men indicted in a separate case in May on racketeering and conspiracy charges for his alleged associations with the Los Angeles Mafia. He is to go to trial in October.

The grand jury probe is believed to focus on loans made from one or more Orange County banks, but details of the allegations were kept secret. However, strike force prosecutor Ariadne Symons did confirm that DeMattia is a target of the probe.

In refusing to testify before the panel, Goodman defied several court orders. At one point, U.S. marshals removed him from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sepulveda, where he had gone, complaining of chest pains, on a day he had been ordered to testify.

The three-judge panel of the appeals court noted that the U.S. District Court had denied bail earlier because it found Goodman's appeal of the contempt citation "frivolous."

The panel said Goodman raised several issues in his application for bail, "none of which appears at this stage to be of sufficient merit to justify overturning the district court's determination of frivolousness."

Neither Symons nor Goodman's attorney, James A. Twitty, could be reached for comment.

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