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Prosecution Disputes Baugh Defense Claims

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TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

Prosecutors defended Friday their use of a controversial witness to win an indictment against Assemblyman Scott R. Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) last March, and said neither case law nor state law provides for dismissal of the charges against Baugh or the other two defendants in the 67th Assembly District election fraud case.

Rebutting arguments by the defense, Deputy Dist. Atty. Craig McKinnon said prosecutors had told the grand jurors that a key witness against Baugh was “a person who has made numerous inconsistent statements, a perjurer [and a target of] the grand jury investigation,” but the panel assessed the credibility of Baugh campaign treasurer Dan Traxler “and it believed him.”

McKinnon made the statements during the second day of a hearing into defense motions seeking dismissal of multiple felony indictments handed down six months ago against Baugh; his chief of staff Maureen Werft, and Rhonda Carmony, campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach).

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The hearing continues Monday and could extend until Tuesday in Superior Court. Baugh was indicted on four felony counts of perjury and 18 misdemeanor counts for allegedly concealing or misreporting tens of thousands of dollars on campaign and other finance disclosure statements.

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Among the charges are that Baugh deliberately omitted a $1,000 contribution from the husband of Laurie Campbell to hide his longtime friendship with Campbell, a decoy Democratic candidate recruited by Republicans to siphon votes from Baugh’s chief rival. Baugh won the special election, replacing renegade GOP Assemblywoman Doris Allen, who simultaneously was recalled by voters.

Eight of the 22 counts against Baugh--including three of the felonies--rely to some degree on testimony from Traxler, prosecutors have said. Traxler has admitted that he signed, under penalty of perjury, campaign disclosure forms that contained deliberate errors.

Carmony is charged with three counts of election fraud for helping to place Campbell on the ballot during the special election. Werft is charged with two felonies alleging she filed illegally for an absentee ballot and voted in the election.

On Friday, an attorney for Carmony joined other defense lawyers who previously said the prosecutors had engaged in misconduct, advocated an indictment and misled grand jurors. Creighton Laz alleged that prosecutors allowed two Republican aides to perjure themselves before the grand jury by deliberately deflecting blame for his alleged role in the scheme from Jeff Flint, their immediate boss, and onto Carmony. Flint at the time was chief of staff to Assemblyman Curt Pringle, the Garden Grove Republican who was elected Speaker of the Assembly with Baugh’s vote.

Laz said grand jurors should have been made aware that Pringle had the most to gain from a Baugh win and that both aides “worked for Flint . . . and Flint or Pringle could fire them.”

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McKinnon argued, “There is no California case . . . or a single federal case” where an indictment has been set aside on these grounds,” and called on Smith not to break legal ground because this case involves “the mother of all misconduct.”

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