Tucker Denies He Accepted $7,500 in Return for Votes
Declaring that he wouldn’t “sell my vote for any amount of money,” Rep. Walter R. Tucker III denied Wednesday that he extorted $7,500 from Compton’s residential rubbish hauler in exchange for his votes awarding the firm a rate increase and contract extension.
Tucker told a federal court jury that he voted for the measures while Compton’s mayor in 1991-92 largely out of fairness and because the city manager’s staff had recommended it.
Testifying in his own defense on extortion and income tax fraud charges, the Democratic congressman categorically denied pegging his votes to payments from Murcole Disposal.
In testimony last month, Murcole’s former general manager, Mikael Aloyan, accused Tucker of soliciting bribes through an intermediary, Jesse Robinson, a well-known figure in Compton who did public relations work for Murcole.
Before each Murcole contract request was to be voted on by the City Council, Aloyan said, Tucker asked to meet privately with Robinson, a longtime Tucker family friend.
After their private meetings, Robinson reported back to Murcole, relating how much money Tucker wanted for his vote, Aloyan testified. Robinson died in 1993.
On the stand Wednesday, Tucker lashed back, accusing Aloyan of offering him a $100,000 bribe plus part ownership in a card club that was being considered by the council in 1992. Tucker, a lawyer and minister, said he turned down Aloyan flatly and vowed to fight the proposal. The card club proposal was approved just before Tucker left for his new job in Congress.
Tucker also said that it was Robinson who sought him out, first offering financial help for his political campaigns and then, as an afterthought, asking for favorable treatment on Murcole’s contract requests.
Each time, Tucker said, he told Robinson that he would be fair and objective.
Under its long-term contract with the city, Murcole was entitled to periodic rate increases, but the amount had to be negotiated with the city and approved by the council.
On Aug. 20, 1991, according to prosecutors, Murcole made a $5,000 contribution to Friends of Walter Tucker, the mayor’s campaign fund. On Sept. 10, Tucker voted to give Murcole a 5.9% rate increase.
Tucker denied any linkage between the two events. He pointed out that Murcole had originally requested an 11% increase. The amount awarded, he said, had been recommended by the city’s administrative staff. On May 13, 1992, a day after Tucker voted to grant the rubbish hauler a five-year contract extension, Murcole contributed $2,500 to Tucker’s congressional campaign. The money was repaid to Murcole because corporate contributions are illegal in federal elections. The trash firm then wrote a $2,500 check to Tucker’s wife, Robin.
In addition to the payments from Murcole, Tucker is accused of extorting $30,000 and soliciting another $250,000 in bribes from Compton Energy Systems, which sought to build a $250-million waste-to-energy conversion plant in Compton. Tucker contends that he had a consulting arrangement with the firm’s owner, John Macardican, who was working as an FBI informant.