Feds defend use of wiretaps in San Diego corruption case

SAN DIEGO - Secret wiretaps in the City Hall corruption case were based on "more than sufficient" evidence that a crime was taking place and should be admissible, according to federal prosecutors.

A lawyer for Las Vegas-based lobbyist Lance Malone had argued judges were duped into approving the recordings, claiming they were not properly advised that Malone had made statements showing he was not part of a broad conspiracy to bribe local politicians.

On Friday, prosecutors filed nearly 200 pages in response to defense arguments, saying Malone was a knowing participant and that the secret recordings were legal.

"Malone was an integral player with all his co-defendants in formulating the short term solution and long term plan ... ," prosecutors wrote. "In fact, Malone was the glue that held the conspirators together and allowed them to advance their insidious plot."

Councilmen Ralph Inzunza, Michael Zucchet and the late Charles Lewis were indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2003 on charges they schemed with strip club owner Michael Galardi, club manager John D'Intino and Malone, Galardi's lobbyist, to repeal a no-touching law in exchange for money and favors.

Galardi and D'Intino have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with authorities. The councilmen and Malone have pleaded not guilty. The councilmen have said any money they received was properly reported as campaign contributions. Their trial is set to begin May 3.

A parallel investigation in Las Vegas has resulted in the indictments of Galardi, Malone and former Clark County Commissioners Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, Dario Herrera and Erin Kenny. Galardi and Kenny have pleaded guilty and have been cooperating with authorities.

Malone, a former Clark County commissioner, Kincaid-Chauncey and Herrera have pleaded not guilty. Their trial has been scheduled for March 8.

Responding to Malone's request to dismiss charges, federal prosecutors in San Diego cited conversations they say prove the lobbyist was a knowing participant in the bribery scheme.

During a March 7, 2002, conversation, Galardi asked Malone who was running for a council seat against Zucchet and then added, "We could bribe him, too," according to the documents filed Friday.

In another example, prosecutors cite an April 4, 2002, conversation in which Malone, Galardi and an FBI informant discuss Lewis' wanting more "cashola," and "how Inzunza, Zucchet and Lewis are working together on the no-touch issue."

"The affidavits are replete with evidence that defendant Malone was not only aware of, but was also a driving force in, the criminal conspiracy to change the objective of no-touch provision of the adult ordinance," prosecutors wrote.

A hearing on the motions has been scheduled for March 7 before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller in San Diego.


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