Judge orders U.S. to answer Calderon complaint

SACRAMENTO — A federal court ordered law enforcement officials Thursday to respond to an accusation by state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon that they leaked a confidential FBI affidavit alleging that he took bribes.

A clerk for U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley in Sacramento sent federal authorities and Calderon an order to provide a “joint status report” on the leak allegations and on whether they can be resolved through mediation or settlement talks.

A sealed FBI affidavit, published recently by a cable television network, accuses Calderon (D-Montebello) of taking $88,000 in bribes to influence legislation on tax breaks for the film industry and on workers’ compensation rules.

Calderon’s attorney filed a motion with the court Wednesday seeking sanctions against the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office, alleging that they leaked the affidavit to retaliate for his refusal to wear a wire to record conversations with two other senators.

“The leaks of sealed records in this case are calculated to fast-track and strong-arm a meritless case against Sen. Calderon,” the complaint said.


Calderon’s complaint notes that Assistant U.S. Atty. Doug Miller, who is heading the Calderon investigation, was also a prosecutor in a grand jury case examining doping allegations against professional cyclists, including Lance Armstrong.

No charges were filed in that case after Armstrong’s attorneys alleged in court papers that government sources had leaked confidential grand jury information.

Representatives of the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the complaint, which alleges that there was a sting operation against Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

“The FBI was specifically interested in Sen. Steinberg’s financial activities with Michael Drobot, the former chief executive officer of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach,” the Calderon filing alleges.

Steinberg called the allegations in Calderon’s filing “beyond the pale” and reiterated previous statements that he is “not a subject of this investigation.”

“Whatever conversations the authorities may have had with the senator, whether he wore a wire — I have no idea,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he had “no relationship” with Drobot but had met the healthcare executive, who had attended several fundraising events for Senate Democrats. A Drobot company, West Coast Surgery Center Management, gave a total of $3,750 to two Steinberg campaign committees between May 2001 and October 2002, according to state records.

Steinberg said he also had one meeting several years ago on the subject of workers’ compensation legislation with Drobot and Tom Calderon, Ronald Calderon’s brother, who has worked as a consultant for Drobot.

Steinberg said he spoke to Drobot “on one occasion, heard him out and rejected his request and did just the opposite.” Steinberg voted last year in favor of a bill limiting the reimbursements that hospitals get for implants used in spinal surgeries, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law.

Drobot had fought such a measure. The leaked federal affidavit alleges that Drobot paid Calderon $28,000 to advocate the executive’s position on legislation.

The executive “did not violate the law,” his attorney, Jeffrey Rutherford, said Thursday.

De Leon also disputed Calderon’s allegations Thursday.

“The U.S. attorney’s office asked me to assist their investigation as a witness, and I have done so,” the senator said.