Assemblyman Ordered to Trial in Forgery Case

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge Wednesday ordered Republican Assemblyman John R. Lewis of Orange to stand trial Sept. 25 on charges of forging former President Reagan's name on campaign endorsement letters mailed to California voters in 1986.

Lewis, who was indicted Feb. 6 by the Sacramento County Grand Jury, waived his right to a preliminary hearing before trial. He has pleaded not guilty.

His attorney, Clyde M. Blackmon, said Lewis decided to proceed directly to trial because the "prospects were not good" for a judge dismissing the case at a preliminary hearing. At such a hearing, the judge, to sustain the charges, must find only that there was "probable cause" to believe that a crime had been committed.

Lewis' attorney and the deputy attorney general prosecuting the case had tentatively agreed to start the trial Sept. 8 but delayed it 2 weeks so Lewis could be present in the Legislature for the end of the first half of the 1989-90 session.

Blackmon said he plans to introduce legal motions by May 30, asking that the charges against Lewis be dismissed. He said the logic will follow the same lines as his previously unsuccessful efforts to have charges set aside before Lewis was arraigned last week.

Argument Rejected by Judge

Blackmon has argued that the state's forgery laws do not apply to the case, because Lewis did not intend to defraud anyone of money or property. That argument was rejected by Superior Court Judge James I. Morris; the 3rd District Court of Appeal declined to consider the matter.

Blackmon said he believes that his chances would be better the second time at the Court of Appeal, because the court's first ruling rested on procedural issues. He said the court has not yet considered the issue of whether the phony Reagan endorsements could constitute forgery.

The letters were mailed to hundreds of thousands of voters in six Assembly districts, even though the White House had denied Assembly Republicans permission to use Reagan's name, according to grand jury testimony.

Lewis ordered his staff members to send at least three of the letters, then tried to cover up his role when the White House investigated, witnesses testified.

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