Nathanson Pleads Not Guilty to Extortion Charges

From a Times Staff Writer

Former California Coastal Commissioner Mark L. Nathanson pleaded not guilty Wednesday to eight felony counts alleging that he used his office to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from people seeking coastal development permits.

Outside the courthouse after his brief arraignment in federal court, Nathanson told reporters: "I came up to Sacramento to plead not guilty because I am not guilty, and I will prove that in court when we have our trial."

Nathanson said he would have no other comment until his case goes to trial, possibly in late October.

A federal grand jury earlier this month charged Nathanson with extortion, racketeering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and income tax evasion. At the center of the case against Nathanson is the allegation that he demanded payments from such Hollywood celebrities as Sylvester Stallone in exchange for favorable action on their requests to build or remodel expensive beachfront homes.

If convicted on all charges, he could face a maximum of 79 years in prison, fines totaling $1.5 million and forfeiture of almost $300,000 in cash as well as his house.

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