Friday, Feb. 16, 2007 | U.S. Attorney Carol Lam marked her departure with one notable feat this week: an indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency’s former executive director and a contractor accused of bribing federal officials. But along with her office, Lam also left behind a docket of unfinished cases, including the appeal and post-trial jockeying in the prosecution of a former San Diego councilman convicted of trading his influence for campaign contributions.
More than a year after a jury convicted Ralph Inzunza on more than a dozen charges of honest-services fraud, conspiracy and extortion and a federal judge sentenced him to 21 months in prison, Inzunza remains free on a bond and his lawyers are due to file their first brief with the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals next month. Earlier in February, attorneys for Inzunza also filed a motion for a new trial with U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller, arguing that government lawyers failed to share private conversations with their “star” witness and pressured him into describing the dealings with Inzunza as bribery.
Prosecutors accused Inzunza and two other city leaders of accepting money from a strip club owner in exchange for promises to help repeal the city’s prohibition against the touching of strippers by customers.
The prolonged legal wrangling may augur what’s yet to come in the series of explosive public corruption cases Lam’s successor will have to shepherd.
Federal prosecutors, though they declined to talk about Inzunza’s latest filing, say they expect the appointment of a new U.S. attorney to have no impact in the prosecution. However, even they say they have no idea how much time remains before a final resolution in the Inzunza case.
“If I knew that I could pick the winning lottery numbers tonight,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael G. Wheat, one of the lawyers who helped prosecute Inzuna. “It’s not over until all of the litigation is done, which will probably be long after Ralph Inzunza has served out his sentence.”