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Don Perata won’t face federal corruption charges, U.S. attorney announces

Ending a five-year corruption investigation by the FBI, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento has decided not to file criminal charges against former state Senate leader Don Perata.

Perata, a Democrat and candidate for mayor of Oakland, called Wednesday’s decision by federal prosecutors “full vindication.”

“I am gratified but not surprised by this decision,” he said in a statement. “This is a complete affirmation of everything I’ve maintained for the last five years -- that I’ve acted appropriately in both my professional life and my career in public service.”

Federal investigators had launched a probe in 2004 into whether Perata, family members and friends benefited financially from his official actions.

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Perata’s son Nick has been notified that he will not face charges, according to the son’s attorney, Elliot Peters. Nick Perata, a direct mail specialist, headed companies that did work for his father’s campaigns, and one of the firms rented office space from him.

Also cleared Wednesday was Timothy Staples, a professional fundraiser and college friend of Perata, said Staples’ attorney, William Goodman. Staples hired the senator’s consulting firm after receiving business from campaigns the senator supported.

In addition, Lily Hu, an Oakland lobbyist and former Perata aide who represented developers who contributed money to the senator, also received a letter saying she would not be prosecuted, according to her attorney, Doron Weinberg.

The decision by acting U.S. Atty. Lawrence G. Brown in Sacramento comes months after his counterpart in San Francisco notified Perata that he would not file charges.

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“Prosecutors from both this office and the criminal division of the Department of Justice have reviewed the matter involving Sen. Don Perata and have determined not to pursue criminal charges,” Brown said in a statement. “This office and the criminal division in Washington, D.C., worked collaboratively in undertaking this review. Each office reached its decision independently based on our respective analyses of the facts and the law.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney declined to say whether the decision was based on insufficient evidence of wrongdoing or on statute-of-limitations laws.

Perata, 64, was president pro tem of the state Senate from December 2004 until term limits forced him from office in November 2008. While he was in that post, FBI agents served search warrants on his home.

A federal grand jury took testimony and issued subpoenas to businesses and government agencies for records, including his Senate e-mails for a six-year period, The Times reported in 2007.

Authorities looked at Perata’s role in supporting bond measures for seismic work on a Bay Area transit system, writing legislation to allow billboards along freeways, and urging agencies to hire a lobbyist to obtain federal approval of an airport roadway, The Times reported.

FBI agents also sought to determine whether Perata’s son, campaign contributors and associates benefited financially from his actions, and whether Perata was compensated improperly by those he helped or failed to fully disclose any payments he received, The Times reported.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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