An undercover agent who worked with Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates’ intelligence unit said the sheriff had “a bounty” out on then-Municipal Judge Bobby D. Youngblood and would “pay handsomely” for evidence that could convict the judge of involvement with cocaine, an attorney testified Thursday in U.S. District Court.
Youngblood was a harsh critic of Gates in the mid-1980s and eventually ran against him for sheriff. He and other Gates election opponents sued the sheriff for using his intelligence unit for political harassment and won a $375,000 settlement from the County of Orange in 1987.
Thursday’s testimony came during the fourth week of a $5-million suit against Gates that was filed by Youngblood’s former private investigator, Preston Guillory. Guillory alleges that Gates arranged trumped-up charges against him in 1985 as harassment. He later was acquitted of the charges--impersonating a law officer and illegally carrying a concealed weapon.
The attorney, James L. Ripley, who was suspended from law practice last February, said his friend, client and employee, Richard Wilder, had told him of his undercover work with the Sheriff’s intelligence unit. Wilder had said he was “very well compensated” for that work, but had not said what the compensation was, Ripley testified.
Wilder had told him that attorneys familiar with Youngblood “knew” that he was involved with cocaine, Ripley said. Wilder told him that “the sheriff will pay a very large sum of money, you could get a gun permit, all sorts of crazy things,” if one could provide evidence, Ripley testified.
Ripley said he thought Wilder had said “the sheriff” in his statements, but may have said “the sheriffs.”
In another development, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Gadbois had asked for a statement of Gates’ financial assets, which will be submitted to the jury as a basis for assessing possible punitive damages.
Gates attorney, Eric L. Dobberteen, submitted the accounting Thursday but objected to preparations by Guillory’s attorneys to dispute the statement as undervaluing Gates’ fortune.
Gadbois said he would not yet release the list to Guillory’s attorneys, remarking that even by Gates’ own accounting, his fortune was worth “seven figures"--at least $1 million.
“That’s enough” to cover punitive damages, he told Michael J. Cisarik, one of Guillory’s attorneys. “What do you want, blood?”
“Yes,” responded Cisarik, adding that he wants “whatever he (Gates) has” as punitive damages.
Gadbois said he would consider the matter later.
Before testimony began Thursday, Gadbois had complained that the case had dragged on much too long. “We want to start to draw the string on this case,” he said. “We have to bring this case to a close.”
But as Meir J. Westreich, another of Guillory’s attorneys, bore down on Sheriff’s Lt. Daniel J. Martini, trying to show that Martini had pressured witnesses to change their stories in order to incriminate Guillory, Gadbois sent the jury out of the courtroom and angrily rebuked the lawyer.
“This is so damned cumulative (repetitive of previous testimony),” Gadbois said. “It’s just totally absurd. These people (the jury) are going to rise up in rebellion.”
He told Westreich that if he wanted “to hash over 10 years of foolishness in Orange County,” he should choose “some place other than Courtroom 16,” Gadbois’ courtroom.
“I don’t have any interest in spending the rest of this year trying this case. You’d better square around, young man,” he said, glowering at Westreich.
“I’m just trying my case as best I can,” Westreich replied.
Attorneys said they expect the jury to begin deliberations next Friday.