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Ex-South Gate Official Settles Weapons Case

Times Staff Writer

The illegal-firearms case against former South Gate Treasurer Albert Robles ended Monday as he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of possessing semiautomatic assault weapons.

Speaking barely above a whisper, Robles replied “yes ma’am” to the terms of a plea agreement, which requires that the onetime political boss serve 250 hours of community service.

Robles also was fined $610 and sentenced to four years of probation by Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio. Robles could face a jail term if he violates terms of the agreement.

The plea bargain marked a quiet conclusion to a highly charged case that grew out of Robles’ use of threatening language against rival politicians in southeast Los Angeles County.

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Robles’ attorneys did not deny he had made the threats, but said he hadn’t meant them to be taken seriously.

The threats case ended in January with a dismissal of seven felony counts after a jury deadlocked on the charges.

Robles faced a potential ban from public office, had he been convicted on the two felony weapons counts. Prosecutors said they had agreed to let Robles plead to misdemeanors because the penalty matched the crime.

“We ended up with a sentence that most defendants who possess assault weapons ... would have received,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Snyder, the lead prosecutor on the case.

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Robles’ attorney, Thomas M. Brown, called the outcome satisfactory for both sides.

“We’re extremely happy with the result,” Brown said after the hearing in Norwalk Superior Court. “It’s fair.”

Robles remains a controversial figure two months after being ousted from office in a voter recall election. Local and federal authorities are pressing forward on several political corruption investigations focusing on his two-year reign as the city’s most powerful politician.

Robles has long cultivated a tough-guy image, and liked boasting about his gun collection. He once said in an interview that he always kept a handgun near his bed and wouldn’t hesitate to use it if an intruder broke into his home.

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The weapons case began in January 2002, when authorities, tipped off by Robles’ former girlfriend, raided his townhouse and found numerous firearms, most of them legal. Also seized were a semiautomatic assault rifle, similar to an AK-47, and a semiautomatic assault pistol.

The weapons had been purchased by Robles before the assault weapons control law took effect on Jan. 1, 2002. But Robles had not registered them, as required by the law, prosecutors said. They filed the weapons case along with charges that he had threatened to rape and kill four people, including two state legislators. The weapons counts were severed from the threats case by the judge, who ruled that trying the allegations together could prejudice a jury against Robles.

Robles, in a brief interview after the hearing, would not give specifics about his future plans, but expressed happiness that the case was over.

“I’m grateful to be a free man and pursue good deeds,” he said.

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