An Orange County judge said Friday he does not believe that the prosecution of Assemblyman Scott Baugh is politically motivated, but he is concerned that another judge once found prosecutorial errors in the handling of the case.
Superior Court Judge Francisco P. Briseno told lawyers for both sides in a hearing Friday that he will rule July 10 on whether Dist. Atty. Mike Capizzi should be replaced by the attorney general's office as the prosecutor in the case.
Baugh is charged with two felony and 10 misdemeanor counts arising from his first run for office in 1995. The Huntington Beach Republican has repeatedly asserted that Capizzi is biased and allowed political motives to influence the decision to prosecute him.
In Tuesday's primary election, Baugh won the GOP nomination against five Republican rivals.
Both Capizzi and Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren oppose Baugh's effort to replace the county prosecutor.
Briseno said he does not take seriously the political claims against Capizzi. Baugh contends that Capizzi has a conflict of interest because of his loss in the GOP primary for attorney general and that the prosecutor is motivated by animosity because GOP leaders joined with Baugh in opposing Capizzi's candidacy in the statewide race.
But Briseno said he is "taking a close look" at a ruling two years ago by another judge who dismissed much of the original indictment against Baugh. That judge said prosecutors mishandled a key witness, hid exculpatory evidence and may have violated the independence of the grand jury.
If convicted of a felony, Baugh would lose his Assembly compensation and membership on committees, Assembly officials said, but it would be up to the Assembly to decide whether it wanted to consider removing him from office.
If Baugh is convicted of a misdemeanor, it would be up to Briseno to decide whether Baugh should be barred from running for office for four years.
Baugh is charged with lying on campaign reports to conceal his relationship with a decoy Democratic candidate placed on the ballot by GOP aides in an effort to dilute the vote of a popular Democrat running against Baugh. The decoy candidate was a longtime friend of Baugh's and had given him a $1,000 contribution.
Baugh has maintained his innocence and attributed the reporting errors to mistakes and bad advice from his campaign treasurer.