Now that a three-judge panel of California’s Second District Court of Appeals has overturned the 2004 conviction of former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, the office of state attorney general Kamala Harris has 40 calendar days to petition the California Supreme Court to review the case.
If the state’s high court does not grant the review request, then Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has 60 days following the 60th day after the appeals court decision to retry Bradley, according to Ralph H. Goldsen, the Goleta, Calif.-based attorney who was appointed to represent Bradley before the Appeals Court.
According to Goldsen, the former Compton mayor’s conviction was overturned because of a state Supreme Court ruling in the 2004 case of Robert E. Stark v. The Superior Court of Sutter County that essentially says that when it comes to misappropriation of public funds it does matter that public officials believe they have permission to use the funds.
Previously the law had held just the opposite.
“Municipal expenses are not divisible by government and personal,” explained Goldsen, who was appointed to represent Bradley by the court because he could not afford to pay for an attorney.
But there are some areas where the difference between purely personal and purely government can be blurred. Travel, meals, etc. is one of those areas. In this area, Goldsen says the local process (such as obtaining a city manager’s approval) determines the validity.
While the prosecution in the original case contended that the city manager in this case (John Johnson) was a tool of the mayor and city council of Compton, and owed his livelihood to these elected officials, Goldsen said the evidence presented did not show that.
Goldsen also said the Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of Johnson and former councilmember Amen Rahh because of the nature of their expenditures–Johnson used city money to fly his son’s baseball team to a tournament in Florida; and Rahh paid for dental work for his brother.
Bradley was accused of misusing about $7,500 for purchases that included golf balls and shoes, cigars, a three-day stay in a penthouse hotel room and in-room movies.
Should the state decide not to appeal and the county district attorney’s office decide not to retry, the Court of Appeals decision is final and all of the restrictions placed on Bradley are removed, including running for public office.