Former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. on Thursday denied a report by a television network that he had hosted parties in his home while governor where cocaine and marijuana were used “in large quantities.”
According to the report by ABC News, four former members of the California State Police detail guarding Brown during that period alleged that cocaine and marijuana were used at several parties Brown hosted at the home he then owned in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles.
None of the officers agreed to be identified, but two appeared on camera with their identities obscured.
ABC News said it “could not determine whether Gov. Brown used drugs himself.”
Brown, campaigning in Pittsburgh, Pa., in preparation for that state’s Democratic presidential primary on April 28, called the report “absolutely false” and denied that he had ever witnessed the use of drugs in his home. “I never saw it,” Brown said.
“For ABC to put on this bizarre, defamatory and unsubstantiated story is an outrage. I categorically deny these charges,” he said. “They are completely untrue. ABC’s anonymous accusers have waited 15 years to tell these lies for the first time. One can only speculate as to who put them up to it.”
Later, in an appearance on ABC’s “Nightline,” Brown even denied holding parties at the home.
“There may have been a gathering or two of fund-raisers, with the public there and the press was there, but this image where we were holding parties that drugs were used is absolutely malicious. . . . “
The use of anonymous accusers, Brown said, “really raises serious questions of the notion of fairness. We are very seriously considering legal action that will allow a deposition very promptly so that we can put these people under oath.”
In New York on March 29, Brown told an interviewer that he had never broken any drug laws and added: “Why don’t you lay off this stuff. What we (he and his Democratic rival, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton) did 10 or 20 years ago is not relevant.”
During the ABC report, one of the former officers, quoted on camera, but lighted so that he could not be recognized, said that he would clean up the house after the parties.
“Throughout the house were ashtrays with seeds or leftovers of marijuana. In one form or another, there was evidence of it in every room.”
Another former officer, whose face was also hidden on camera, said: “After the parties, if you will, were over and we cleared the residence, we could smell the odor of marijuana and we found traces of a white, powdery substance which we later identified as cocaine” by using police test kits. The former officer said the test positively identified cocaine “five or six times.”
Under California law, knowing that these drugs are in your house and having the ability to control whether they are there constitutes possession of drugs. Such possession is a felony in the case of cocaine and a misdemeanor or an infraction in the case of marijuana, depending on the quantity involved.
One of the officers quoted said he did not arrest Brown at the time because “he was the governor of the state of California. . . . Our primary concern was the protection of the governor, not to arrest him.”
ABC said the officers “raised the issue with their superiors, and nothing was ever done about it.”
But ABC also reported that William Skelton, commander of the State Police security division for three of the eight years Brown was governor, said that no drug use at the house was ever reported to him.
On Thursday night, two Highway Patrol drivers for Brown and the chief of his State Police detail in Southern California for six years cast cold water on the ABC report, as did several of Brown’s closest associates in the governor’s office.
Wayne Waddell, who said he was Brown’s Highway Patrol driver from the time he was sworn in as governor in 1975 until August, 1979, attacked the ABC story as “bull crap.”
“I’ve been in that house a thousand times, and I’ve never seen anything to indicate that drugs were used in that house,” Waddell said. “I honestly believe it’s complete nonsense. Someone’s doing a job on Jerry Brown or trying to.”
Waddell’s views were echoed by Howard Becker, who was in charge of the State Police protective services unit in Southern California during the first six years of Brown’s administration.
“As far as I’m concerned, Jerry Brown was very concerned about his health, and the idea of him using any type of narcotic is absolutely ridiculous,” said Becker, a retired State Police sergeant. Nor, he said, is there any indication that anyone else at his house used drugs either.
Becker also said that when he was in charge, State Police officers did not carry kits that would have allowed for identification of cocaine or other substances, as was claimed in the ABC report.
The main functions of the State Police are to protect state office buildings and state officials, especially the governor.
“It sounds like a bunch of baloney,” said Dale Rowlee, a retired CHP sergeant, who was one of Brown’s drivers in Sacramento. He said he would have known if the then-governor frequented parties where drugs were used and that he never saw evidence of that.
Two of Brown’s chiefs of staff when he was governor, State Controller Gray Davis and Republican Assemblyman B. T. Collins; his traveling secretary, Llew Werner, and his longtime close aide and confidant, Tom Quinn, all disputed the suggestions of drug use at the Brown home.
“I lived for a period of time seven or eight blocks away,” Quinn said. “Never did I see any hint of any drug. If anything, Jerry was almost paranoid about the possibility somebody would be using drugs around him. He was insistent that staff people check out the party locations ahead of time and made sure that party hosts were told that there could be no drugs.”
Collins, Brown’s chief of staff during his final three years as governor, said: “I’m the last one to defend this guy, but this is a crock. This guy never held a party in his life. And he was the worst damper on a party there was. He was just a prude. He didn’t feel comfortable around guys who drank or used dope. He didn’t even like cigarette smoke around him.”
Collins added that “state policemen did not like Jerry Brown because he favored the CHP. But the State Police felt comfortable around me, and if there were anything going on, they would have come to me and said: ‘This guy’s got a problem.’ ”
Davis, Brown’s chief of staff in his early years as governor, declared: “I never saw any evidence of drug use during the Brown Administration whatsoever. I can categorically say that I’ve never even heard anyone discuss it.”
Werner said he had been in close proximity to Brown many times at the Laurel Canyon home and knew for a fact that the State Police seldom entered the house.
“The police were always stationed across the street in a vacant lot,” Werner said. “I was the person who often left him (Brown) at night and closed the house myself. The police used to drive me home.”
On “Nightline,” Brown said the police were either “outside or in a separate room.” But he also argued that the police “never cleared up the place. That is not their job. That is not their scope of duty.”
State Police officials late Thursday issued a brief statement, saying that they had learned about the allegations of illegal drug use at Brown’s Los Angeles residence from the news media Thursday.
“At this time, the State Police has no comment regarding the news story other than (that) an inquiry will be conducted into the allegation made by an unidentified person claiming to have been a state officer during that period,” State Police Capt. Robert Donnalley said.
ABC spokesman Arnot Walker said the network had not been looking into this matter. “Correspondent John McWethy was working a totally unrelated story and came across information which led him to this story, which we allowed him to pursue.”
Contributing to this story were Times staff writers George Skelton, Mark Gladstone and Paul Jacobs in Sacramento and Kenneth Reich in Los Angeles.