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Former City Labor Officer Found Guilty in Computer Case : Courts: But Melvin C. Smith is cleared on possession of stolen property charge.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Compton Municipal Court jury last week convicted Melvin C. Smith, former labor relations officer for the city of Compton, of a misdemeanor charge of possessing two computers with missing serial numbers.

However, the jury acquitted Smith on a second misdemeanor charge of possession of stolen property in connection with a 1990 New Year’s Eve burglary of the city attorney’s office in which more than $100,000 worth of office equipment disappeared.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Sep. 12, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 12, 1991 Home Edition Long Beach Part J Page 3 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Jury verdict--An item in the Highlights column Sunday incorrectly reported that Melvin C. Smith, former labor relations officer for the city of Compton, was convicted of possessing stolen computers. A Municipal Court jury actually found Smith guilty of a misdemeanor charge of possessing two computers with missing serial numbers.

After the verdict, Smith said the jury’s decision showed “conclusively” that it did not believe he had been involved with the City Hall burglary.

Smith, who was fired after his arrest last year, is appealing to the City Personnel Board to be reinstated to his job.

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During the five-day trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Barry Gale argued that the computers that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies found in April, 1990, in Smith’s home were stolen in the burglary.

However, Smith and his attorney, Leonard Matsuk of Long Beach, contended that Smith owned the computers and that they were office equipment from a defunct construction firm in which he had been a partner.

At the trial, Smith and Matsuk produced sales receipts they said were for the two computers. The receipts, which included serial numbers, were dated five months earlier than the burglary.

Smith said he did not know if the computers had serial numbers at the time of purchase because his construction firm partners bought them. He also said he never bothered to check the computers for serial numbers and does not know when they were removed.

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Smith was implicated in the case in April, 1990, when Sheriff’s Deputy Armando Rea said an informer told him Smith took part in the burglary. Rea obtained a search warrant for Smith’s apartment and found the computers there.

Smith could be sentenced to up to six months in jail for his conviction on the one charge. But because he doesn’t have any prior criminal convictions, his attorney said the court may put Smith on probation. Sentencing is scheduled Oct. 1.


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