21-Count Indictment Handed DownTemple City Mayor Judy Wong, former Mayor Cathe Wilson and a former council candidate Scott Carwile were all indicted this morning in Los Angeles on felony charges at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles.
All three defendants appeared in Dept. 100 looking anxious and deeply affected by their respective circumstances.
Mayor Judy Wong, former Mayor Cathe Wilson, and Wilson’s campaign treasurer Scott Carwile pleaded not guilty to multiple felony counts of bribery and perjury.
The 21-count indictment was returned Monday by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury and unsealed Wednesday by County Superior Court Judge Patrica Schnegg after the three surrendered and appeared for arraignment.
The charges stem from allegations that Wong, Wilson and David Capra, all council members in 2007, demanded and received cash bribes from Randy Wang, developer of the beleaguered $75 million Piazza project long planned for the intersection of Las Tunas Drive and Rosemead Boulevard. The three allegedly demanded bribes and received campaign contributions in return for support of the project.
David Capra plead guilty last week to one misdemeanor count of failure to report a campaign contribution and agreed to resign from the council effective immediately in exchange for protection from today’s felony charges levied against the other defendants.
Wong, 53, is charged with three counts of perjury, five counts of bribery and one count of solicitation to commit bribery, all felonies. Wilson, 76, is charged with three counts each of perjury and bribery. Carwile, 50, is charged with four counts of perjury and one misdemeanor count of failure to establish a campaign fund for reporting contributions.
Prosecutors asked that bail be set at $250,000 for Wong, $150,000 for Wilson and $100,000 for Carwile. Judge Schnegg refused requests by attorneys for bail reduction in the case of all three defendants.
Judy Wong’s attorney, Sanford H. Perliss, said that his client continues to deny all the allegations.
Developer Randy Wang’s attorney, Patrick Duffy on Tuesday afternoon and said he was “surprised” that former City Manager Charlie Martin wasn’t yet implicated in this matter.
Linda Payne, Executive Director of the Temple Chamber of Commerce said, “This is horrible, very upsetting. I’ve known these are people all my life. However, I believe in the process: innocent until proven guilty. I was surprised when they raided the houses, but not so surprised with the indictments as [the District Attorney] obviously had some evidence if they went to the trouble of raiding homes.”
Enrique Medina, spokesman for developer Randy Wang said that Mr. Wang was fairly pleased with the way the case had been handled thus far.
“I think that the indictments lend credibility to [Mr. Wang’s] statements. Now it will have to be handled from a different perspective. He wanted his project to be addressed fairly and professionally.” Medina added, “I think Mr. Wang is happy to be working with a new city council.” Wang owns the property in question, though development plans have been repeatedly stalled due to lack of available funding for such an ambitious project in the midst of a recession in which bank lending, especially for real estate projects, has been difficult to obtain, if not entirely frozen.
Medina said he thinks that the overall allegations indicate that the former City Council decided to pursue other options. “It seems strange that the city was not promoting the project as a great financial project for the city. It would bring in jobs and retail tax dollars,” Medina added.
Medina made reference to Jay Liyanage, a former project manager for the Piazza project whom it is belived was recommended for the job by then City Manager Charles Martin. Liyanage plead guilty on May 27 to a felony charge of giving bribes to Wong, Wilson and Capra in 2006, according to Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman. Jay Liyanage is listed as one of 12 witnesses for the prosecution in the 21 count indictment.
That particular charge usually carries a sentence of 2 to 4 years, but Huntsman reportedly said Liyanage’s sentence will depend on how cooperative he is in testifying against the implicated Temple City officials.
When asked about the extent of Charlie Martin’s involvement, Medina said “He was involved in a lot of the initial conversations. The reality is, good or bad, that the City Manager is responsible for the day to day activities of the city. I can’t speak to the legal perspective, but the whole project could have been handled differently.”
Asked if he expected more indictments, Medina said he felt the Grand Jury had reviewed all the evidence and that he feels they have probably taken the actions they felt were warranted.
“It is possible however, if additional information comes about as a result of the indictments and future testimony, then there may be more to come. We would all like to know who is the intellectual author of this.”
Read The Full Indictment Below. Click the image to view in full screen.
Photos by Terry Miller