A Superior Court judge, ruling today in the political forgery case of Assemblyman John R. Lewis (R-Orange), ordered that a grand jury transcript remain sealed at least until Lewis' scheduled arraignment next week.
Lewis, 34, a conservative and a key GOP election strategist in the lower house, was indicted by the Sacramento County grand jury on Feb. 6 on a single felony count, accused of using a phony signature of Ronald Reagan when he President on campaign mailers. Lewis faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted.
Arraignment March 7
Judge Rothwell Mason set March 7 for Lewis' arraignment and for attorneys' arguments on unsealing the grand jury transcript. The transcript, which contains the testimony of nearly a dozen witnesses taken over a four-day period, reportedly includes the testimony of former Assembly Republican leader Patrick Nolan (R-Glendale).
Lewis originally was scheduled to be arraigned today, and the grand jury document was scheduled to be released on March 6. Mason's decision delays the release of the transcript by at least a day.
Lewis' attorney, Sacramento lawyer Clyde Blackmon, opposed the release of the transcript, saying it could contain "prejudicial pretrial publicity," while Scott Thorpe, representing state Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp, said, "We believe the defendant would not be prejudiced by its release."
Thorpe agreed to allow the transcript to be sealed until Lewis' arraignment, but he said he will then seek to have the document released.
Lewis has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the case, predicting his eventual exoneration. Today he left the courtroom hurriedly and declined to speak with reporters following the proceedings.
Lewis has been accused of improperly using an unauthorized signature of then President Reagan on GOP campaign mailers that were distributed to voters just before the November, 1986, elections in several district races targeted by Republicans.