Case Against Young Ends on Rebuke From Judge
Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they will not file new criminal charges against former Assemblyman Bruce Young (D-Norwalk), and a federal judge moments later dismissed Young’s indictment with a strong rebuke of the former legislator and California’s campaign fund-raising system.
“I would not walk out of this court feeling vindicated because that’s a false sense of security to have,” warned U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian as a visibly contrite Young concluded his nearly three-year battle against charges that he illegally accepted hidden payments from a powerful Orange County businessman.
“Your trial illustrated a pervasive point, and that is that the raising of monies can corrupt government,” the judge said. “I think the Legislature has got to stop abdicating its responsibilities and meet this problem head-on.”
Young, 42, compared himself to a “fallen angel” and blamed his troubles in part on pressures of a state campaign financing system that he said makes it impossible for many legislators to “say no to their friends.”
“It’s a nuclear arms race out there,” Young declared.
“I do not leave here feeling vindicated. I leave here by the grace of God and a 7-to-2 vote of the United States Supreme Court that I barely understand myself. . . . I’m apologetic, I’m sorry, I’m contrite, and I paid a pretty big price for it, emotionally and financially.”
Prosecutors had vowed to file new charges after a federal appeals court last month dismissed Young’s conviction on five counts of mail fraud, citing a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of U.S. vs. McNally, which held that the mail fraud statute does not cover the theory of “intangible rights,” such as the right to good government, which formed the basis for Young’s conviction.
U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner said prosecutors have concluded that there are no other statutes under which to file new charges against Young based on the financial benefits he received as a legislator from former Anaheim fireworks manufacturer W. Patrick Moriarty.
‘It’s a Damn Shame’
“I think it’s a damn shame that Mr. Young, through a fortuity which is the McNally decision, is able to walk away from this because in my judgment I believe the evidence indicated that he was bought and paid for by Mr. Moriarty, or perhaps I should say he was Mr. Moriarty’s man in the state Legislature,” Bonner said in an interview.
“It is in my view a miscarriage of justice that this thing has been reversed,” he added.
Young had risen to the powerful position of Assembly Transportation Committee chairman before his indictment in 1986 for hidden financial benefits he received from Moriarty and cable television interests.
He was convicted on five of the original 28 counts of mail fraud and sentenced to 18 months in prison but remained free on bond pending the outcome of his appeal.
“I look back, and I say, ‘I should’ve been stronger.’ I was given a great chance,” Young said. “I represented a great district, some great people, and I blew it.
“I made a mistake. I let a Pat Moriarty get too close to me, and I didn’t say no. But Pat Moriarty never bought me. I was never for sale. The problem was he was a friend who I let get too close. As someone said, ‘You watch your enemies, but you watch your friends closer.’ . . . I watched the wrong mouse hole.”
The judge took the opportunity for a lengthy tongue-lashing directed at Sacramento where he said state legislators have “abdicated their responsibilities” by failing to act on a variety of issues, including campaign reform.
“There are too many important issues that the Legislature is not taking a position on, and it’s being forced to go to the referendum process, starting with Proposition 13,” the 1978 property tax-cutting initiative, Tevrizian said.
Prosecutors over the last several weeks had looked at a variety of other federal charges to bring against Young.
Mail Fraud Rejected
The mail fraud statute was rejected because there was no way to argue that California residents had been deprived of property rights, even though the statute has since been amended to include intangible rights, Bonner said.
Prosecutors rejected a tax fraud indictment because Young had reported on his income tax return all the benefits he received, including the use of a Ford Bronco and an estimated $30,000 paid to his consulting firm, Young Thinking Inc.
Bonner said the Justice Department also considered bringing a case under the federal extortion statute, but rejected that as well. Court decisions interpreting the statute require that public officials virtually extort money in order to be convicted, Bonner said.
“This was not a situation where Young appears to be extorting money out of Moriarty or the cable TV interests in order to allow them to get legislation through,” he said. “This appears to be a willingness on both sides of the equation.”
Prosecutors said they were finally hampered by the five-year statute of limitations imposed on all of the alleged offenses that would have precluded any new charges on many of the activities charged in the original indictment.
Young said he is seeking to rebuild his lobbying business in Sacramento. “I want to be around as an example of how somebody can become a fallen angel,” he said