Robles’ Alleged Threats Weren’t Serious, Jury Told

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A businessman testifying at the trial of South Gate Treasurer Albert Robles said that Robles’ threatening language toward two political opponents made him “uncomfortable,” but that he wasn’t worried for their safety.

The businessman, Mark Kudler, admitted hearing Robles say that, if he could get away with it, he would cause harm to state Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) and her husband, Leo Briones. But Kudler said he relayed the message to Briones only because he wanted a “cooling off” period between the couple and Robles.

“I didn’t think it was a threat,” said Kudler in a heated exchange with Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Snyder. “I didn’t think it was serious.”

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Kudler’s testimony pertains to a crucial part of the prosecution’s case against Robles, who is charged with threatening to kill Escutia, Briones, Assemblyman Marco Antonio Firebaugh (D-Los Angeles) and a South Gate police lieutenant.

Kudler, who accused prosecutors of trying to twist his testimony in pretrial interviews, only partly confirmed his earlier statements to police. According to prosecutors, Kudler, in a meeting with Robles at a Compton casino, heard Robles say that, if he could get away with it, he would rape Escutia and kill Briones.

On the witness stand, Kudler recounted hearing Robles say that, if he could get away with it, he would do “something to Escutia.” He said he couldn’t recall whether it was “rape” or another word. But responding to Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio’s question, Kudler acknowledged that the word expressed “bodily harm.”

Kudler also later acknowledged that the threatening language involving Briones was a synonym for “kill” or “murder.”

Kudler, who attended the casino meeting with Lynwood Councilman Fernando Pedroza, said Robles raised his voice when he made the statements and was expressing anger over political differences with Escutia and Briones, longtime foes.

But Kudler, describing his reaction to Robles’ statement, denied that he phoned Briones later to warn him. Kudler said he only wanted to tell Briones that Robles was very angry at him.

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Kudler said he was reluctant to be called as a witness in the case because of its political overtones. “I was concerned that my statements would be misconstrued,” he said. “That this whole thing was over politics.”

Defense attorneys contend that the two legislators pushed the case against Robles as political retaliation for his successful opposition to a power plant in South Gate that they supported.

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