Ex-Pringle Aide Pleads Guilty to Fraud

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

A former staff aide to Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle pleaded guilty Wednesday to participating in a Republican scheme to manipulate the ballot in last year's 67th Assembly District election, becoming the third GOP worker in less than a week to be convicted in the election fraud case.

Mark Richard Denny, 27, a paid employee of the speaker until Tuesday, admitted that he illegally circulated nominating petitions on Sept. 21 for decoy Democrat Laurie Campbell. Denny resigned his post as a field representative in Pringle's Garden Grove office Tuesday, his attorney said.

Denny--like two other GOP workers who have pleaded guilty since Friday to involvement in the scheme--named Rhonda Carmony, a top aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), as instrumental in the plan, according to their sworn declarations to the court.

Jeffrey Christopher Gibson, who managed the campaign to recall Assemblywoman Doris Allen, pleaded guilty Monday, and Richard Martin, a campaign worker for Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach), pleaded guilty Friday. All admitted to participating in a plan to put Campbell on the ballot to siphon votes from a more established Democratic candidate in the Assembly race.

In the six months since Campbell filed her nominating papers, county GOP leaders at first ridiculed charges by Democratic leaders that the Campbell candidacy was engineered by Republican legislators, but they now have seen three aides or campaign workers convicted of violating election laws.

The Nov. 28 election was pivotal for the GOP. Baugh's victory and the recall of Allen the same day gave Republicans the votes to control the Assembly. With Baugh providing the winning margin, Pringle was elected speaker in January.

Pringle declined to discuss the case, but issued a press release saying that he was "very saddened by the unfortunate circumstances" that led to Denny's resignation.

Carmony's attorney, Creighton Laz, said that "with respect to Denny and Gibson, we disagree with the substance and the spirit and the impression they are trying to create. And we strongly disagree with many of the details, and again, I don't know why they are saying what they are saying."

No evidence has emerged publicly to implicate Pringle, Rohrabacher or Baugh, all of whom have denied wrongdoing. While it is not a crime for a Republican to recruit a Democrat, it is a felony to falsely fill out any part of a nomination paper or to knowingly file a falsified nominating petition.

Campbell, a longtime friend of Baugh, was removed from the ballot in late October by a Sacramento judge who found that she had filed falsified nomination papers. A few days later, the district attorney's office started investigating the circumstances of her candidacy.

Denny pleaded guilty in Municipal Court to a single misdemeanor, fraudulently making a nomination paper, and agreed to cooperate with the district attorney's investigation.

Like his two colleagues, Denny was sentenced to three years' probation, fined $2,800, ordered to serve 200 hours of community service and largely prohibited from participating in campaign work during his probation.

Times staff writer Eric Bailey contributed to this report.

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