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Brown Says D.A. in Wright Traffic Case Is Driven by Politics, Pique

Times Staff Writers

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) lashed out Wednesday at Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury, whose office is investigating whether Brown and Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) improperly sought to gain favorable treatment for Wright’s daughter in traffic violation cases.

Brown asserted that Bradbury’s motives were personal pique and politics.

In another development Wednesday, a state hearing officer ruled that the driver’s license of the daughter, Victoria Catherine Wright, will be revoked today because she received two speeding tickets in September while on probation for numerous traffic convictions.

Wright, 24, whose license had been restricted to driving between the Simi Valley home she shares with her mother and her work at a Thousand Oaks supermarket, did not appear at the Van Nuys hearing and could not be reached Wednesday. Her record includes 16 moving violations since December, 1986.

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Contacted Officials

Assemblywoman Wright has acknowledged that she contacted the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Ventura County and Simi Valley officials about her daughter’s traffic problems, but said she did so as a concerned mother. She has denied doing anything improper.

Victoria Wright’s license was suspended in June, 1988, for six months after a DMV hearing at which she was represented by her mother. Assemblywoman Wright then wrote DMV Director A. A. (Del) Pierce requesting a review of her daughter’s record, something she said she would do for any constituent.

Pierce assigned James E. Dunn, a traffic safety manager, to look at the record. When Victoria Wright was subsequently convicted of another speeding offense and requested a hearing, Dunn traveled from Sacramento to Van Nuys to conduct it.

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Dunn called Wright’s record “horrendous,” but said he would “give her the benefit of the doubt.” He reinstated the license, but restricted her to driving to and from her workplace for six months and placed her on probation. Dunn told The Times this week that one reason for his action was “that the department did not consider a restricted-type license.”

But according to the DMV report of the June hearing, hearing officer R. Maestras noted that some of Wright’s convictions had occurred on her way to and from work. “Therefore, a restricted license would prove ineffective,” he said.

Dunn could not be reached Wednesday. He and other DMV officials have maintained that Victoria Wright received no special treatment.

Cathie Wright, meanwhile, told the June hearing officer that “Vickie has grown up believing that her last name could circumvent some of the problems that she’s been involved in,” according to the DMV report. “Also, my husband, who has passed away, instilled upon Vickie that she could use her last name to avoid citations.” Victor Wright died in 1982.

‘Better Care’

Wright said that her daughter “is taking better care of her driving habits.”

The Times reported Wednesday that Ventura County Municipal Judge Herbert Curtis III has told Bradbury’s investigators that Speaker Brown asked him to give favored treatment to Victoria Wright when she appeared before him in court last April 18 on traffic violations, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

In an interview Wednesday, Brown denied having spoken to Curtis on Wright’s behalf. “No, no, no, not at all, not at all, not possible,” he said. Later, he added: “Even if I had, it wouldn’t be improper.” At another point, Brown said he “could very well have spoken” to Curtis, “but I have no recollection of calling him for any purpose.”

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He then assailed Bradbury’s motives, as Wright has done previously. Brown said Bradbury is harassing Wright because he was angry that she contacted the State Police rather than his office or Simi Valley police about a series of unrelated incidents involving her daughter.

When Victoria Wright came before Judge Curtis, a Democrat and former Ventura County deputy district attorney, last April in her traffic case, he fined her, placed her on a three-year probation and gave her a 30-day suspended sentence. He also told her another violation would result in jail. Curtis has declined to comment on the report that Brown called him.

Frederick Rosenmund, an Oxnard attorney whom Brown had recommended to Assemblywoman Wright, represented Victoria Wright in the traffic case. Rosenmund said Tuesday that the allegation that Brown called Curtis was “particularly ridiculous because none of us knew who the judge was going to be” in the case until arriving in court on April 18.

Only Judge Available

But John J. Hunter, the presiding Municipal Court judge in Ventura County, said Wednesday that Curtis was assigned to the Traffic Court in Ventura between February and May and was the only judge who could have handled the case.

“Any matter brought before the court he would have heard,” Hunter said. “If Willie Brown would have called for the Traffic Court, for example, he would get Curtis.”

Meanwhile, a State Bar official said Wednesday that based on press reports about the Wright traffic case, the Bar would conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine if there has been any misconduct by Brown, who is a lawyer.

“I think we have no choice,” said Francis Bassios, deputy chief trial counsel of the State Bar, in response to reports of Brown’s intervention on behalf of Wright’s daughter.

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