California State Police commanders, in charge of security at the private home of Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., when he was governor of California, Friday denied receiving any reports from subordinates of drug use at the residence.
A spokesman for the State Police, which is charged with protecting high state officials, said the agency’s investigators were reviewing video tapes of ABC network broadcasts in which two purported former officers, appearing with blacked-out faces and disguised voices, alleged that they had observed drug parties at the home while Brown was there.
The aim, said Capt. Robert Donnalley, is to identify these and three other officers anonymously quoted by ABC, so they can be questioned about their allegations, which Brown, a number of his associates and several State Police commanders have branded as malicious and unfounded.
“It is not only an attack on Jerry Brown’s integrity,” said Donnalley, “but more importantly, as we see it, it is an attack on the integrity of the State Police.
“We’re identifying those officers who were assigned to that detail at that period of time and talking to them about the allegations and basically trying to get to the bottom of this.”
No one, even anonymously, has accused Brown, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, of using drugs himself. But if the governor knew drugs were being used and did not report it, that would have constituted a crime, although the statute of limitations would have expired by now.
In the aftermath of ABC’s broadcast Thursday night, at least six State Police officers and three California Highway Patrol drivers assigned to Brown during his two-term governorship from 1975 to 1983, denied they had ever observed drugs being used at Brown’s Laurel Canyon home in Los Angeles.
But on Friday evening ABC broadcast a new report saying that two other anonymous sources had come forward to say they had seen evidence of marijuana and cocaine at the house.
The new sources, ABC said, were “a former police officer and a political aide who worked with Brown.”
Network correspondent John McWethy noted that Brown had asked of the earlier four sources, “Why are they anonymous? Why are they anonymous? What are they afraid of?”
But, McWethy continued, “Yesterday evening, after (appearing on ABC’s) Nightline, Brown may have answered his own question when he vowed to ‘get them’ for speaking against him.”
Paul Friedman, executive producer of ABC World News Tonight, said the quote McWethy referred to was made directly to him as he and Brown left ABC’s Washington studio Thursday night. Brown could not be reached for comment.
Friday night, McWethy added, “All of the sources fear that going public could hurt them and their families.”
The correspondent said that the latest former officer interviewed anonymously “said when he half-seriously raised the issue of writing a citation against the governor, the policeman’s supervisor said, ‘We didn’t have this conversation. . . . You’ll never raise the issue again.’ ”
Several commanders of the Brown security detail at various times insisted, however, that no such reports had ever been made.
William Skelton, former chief of the State Police and commander of the security detail during part of Brown’s governorship, also challenged the ABC sources who said they feared they would be fired if they reported the alleged drug use.
“That is totally baseless,” Skelton said. “They are in a Civil Service classification. We had great difficulty (for that matter) getting rid of people who committed some heinous violations of rules.”
Guy R. Oates, another State Police chief during Brown’s governorship, said, “I knew my guys and I knew them well enough, if they would have had any suspicions, they would have told me. . . . The points they (the anonymous sources) made, I could rip to pieces. The whole damned story is so full of holes.
“Look at the price of coke. People leaving coke around? It’s so expensive.”
Howard Newsham, a retired State Police commander who headed up the agency’s protective services bureau during part of Brown’s Administration, branded the ABC story “garbage.”
Newsham said he didn’t particularly care for Brown, but he described the former governor as “a straight arrow.” He said that when Brown was out and about the State Police would send an advance scout to “make sure there was no marijuana smoking around.”
Newsham added, “If we went to a fund-raiser, even if it was small, he (Brown) didn’t want to be around anything that was illegal, and I’m a very conservative Republican. I just can’t believe that someone would make accusations like that.”
Robert McHale, a retired assistant chief who oversaw the Los Angeles office between 1972 and 1981, including six years of Brown’s governorship, said he believes it unlikely anyone on the state force had found marijuana at Brown’s house.
“If two people knew about it, everyone would have,” he said. “It would have been flash news through the department.”
Official State Police spokesman Donnalley questioned even whether ABC’s sources are actually authentic.
“I would certainly use the term ‘officers’ very loosely, because we don’t know who they are,” he said. “We have viewed the tapes, and the people that have looked at them have been around for a long period and . . . we do not know who those individuals are.”
On Friday, Brown campaign spokesman Tom Pier said that Brown had consulted with attorney Joseph L. Alioto, the former mayor of San Francisco, about taking possible legal action against ABC.
Alioto did not answer telephone calls on what might be planned.
Brown, campaigning in Virginia before flying on to California, vowed Friday, regardless of the charges, “to carry on this campaign, wage my efforts to clean up this process and bring some sanity to presidential politics.”
But, he remarked to a reporter, “It’s hard enough to be credible in a presidential campaign” without having to rebut such charges, which Brown has called “false, malicious and defamatory.”
Meanwhile, a number of Brown friends and associates, as well as public figures not noted for being politically friendly to the governor, continued to dispute the anonymous charges:
* An agent for former Brown girlfriend Linda Ronstadt, the singer, said, “Those who know Brown know it’s just bull. . . .” The agent, Paul Wasserman, added, that when Ronstadt was dating Brown in the late 1970s, “Everyone was alert to the fact that no drugs or anything like that were to be done when Brown was present. No one, in deference to him did drugs while he was around.”
* Adriana Gianturco, former state transportation chief during Brown’s governorship, said that during their 30-year friendship she never saw any sign that Brown either took drugs or was tolerant of others who did. “Once when he was secretary of state, and we went to a party in the Hollywood Hills and were there for five or 10 minutes, he said to me, ‘I think some people are smoking pot; let’s get out of here,’ ” Gianturco recalled.
* Former Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis, now a Republican state senator, said, “I know Jerry fairly well. Never have I seen any sign he would tolerate drug use. I think that ABC is classically doing what they do best. They’re presenting witnesses who are anonymous, and that is dastardly, it is un-American, unfair and unprofessional. If they have police officer witnesses, they should come out with them. Why should they let them impugn a public official in this way?”
* Republican political consultant Ed Rollins, once a leading political adviser to former President Ronald Reagan, said, “I think that in this place and time, it’s a story that’s both irrelevant and, secondly, it probably wasn’t fully investigated. I was the Republican chief of staff in the state Legislature when he was governor. There was never any stories of his partying.”
Contributing to this story were Thomas B. Rosenstiel in Washington, Melissa Healy traveling with Brown and Paul Jacobs, Mark Gladstone, Daniel M. Weintraub, Carl Ingram and George Skelton in Sacramento.
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