Deliberations in Downey Councilman's Case Begin

Times Staff Writer

After hearing more than a week of testimony, a Norwalk jury began deliberations Friday in the misdemeanor conflict-of-interest trial of Downey City Councilman James S. Santangelo.

In his closing statement Friday afternoon, Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin argued that Santangelo knew that he stood to gain financially when he cast the deciding vote to expand the city's redevelopment district in 1984.

Santangelo, 53, who was elected to the council in 1984 and heads a Downey real estate firm, owned property both in the original district and the expansion area at the time of the vote. Defense attorney Leo Newton told the jurors that Santangelo was simply following the advice of former City Atty. Carl Newton and did not foresee any personal gain.

(Carl Newton is not related to the defense attorney Leo Newton.)

Santangelo testified earlier this week that Carl Newton advised him that voting on the measure was not conflict of interest because the mere formation of a redevelopment area did not affect property values. Santangelo's defense maintained that specific projects would have had to be approved before property values in the district were affected.

But Carl Newton contradicted Santangelo's testimony, saying he never advised him on the vote.

The expansion district, which added 386 acres to the city's original redevelopment zone, was invalidated in 1985 by a Superior Court judge who found that Santangelo had a conflict of interest. The decision was upheld by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

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