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Justice undone: Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza

Federal Judge Jeffrey T. Miller ordered a hearing held on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. At that hearing the U.S. Attorney announced an intention not to retry former Interim Mayor Michael Zucchet on two federal counts remaining from his 2005 "corruption" trial; Zucchet is now fully exonerated -- another innocent man prosecuted.

Dismissal is the only proper result since the counts against Zucchet were based on "bribery" and their retrial depended upon a repeat of Michael Galardi's previously offered testimony that a $10,000 cash bribe was paid in April 2003 to three Democratic councilmen: Ralph Inzunza, Michael Zucchet, and Charles Lewis (deceased). This is the same dicey, dramatic testimony which helped convict then Councilman Inzunza.

Since the 2005 trial, it has become known that in June 2003, within two months after the date of the supposed payment of this $10,000 cash "bribe," Mr. Galardi was extensively interviewed by his own lawyers who prepared a 22-page memo in order to try to prepare for a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney. During those exhaustive interviews, Galardi never said anything about a $10,000 cash payment or bribe, even though he was striving to disclose everything to gain a favorable plea deal.

Lance Malone, post-conviction, executed a sworn affidavit that he never received nor gave Michael Zucchet or Ralph Inzunza $10,000 in cash. FBI photographs offered at the 2005 trial showed Malone on the alleged "payment day." Malone is shown on a bright midday in tight clothes; no bulges or packages appear anywhere. FBI recording of the lunch meeting discloses no payment.

What is simply shocking is what was not revealed pretrial to the Zucchet and Inzunza defense teams.

Now it's understood, inter alia, the memo prepared by Galardi's own defense lawyers was provided to Justice's (DOJ) Inspector General in October 2004, and shortly thereafter to the Public Integrity Section (PIS) of DOJ, apparently the same PIS now under investigation in connection with Sen. Ted Stevens' prosecution.

The memo clearly revealed that Galardi never told his lawyers anything about any $10,000 payment in cash to the councilmen. That memo was not provided to the councilmen's lawyers by the U.S. Attorney during trial, as would have been absolutely required under Brady v Maryland, given its clear exculpatory importance; PIS was aware of this very high profile prosecution. The Galardi memo finally appeared a year after trial. The U.S. Attorney did not seek a dismissal.

Most astonishing, by the time Galardi testified in June 2005, the DOJ PIS had apparently been in possession of Galardi's lawyer's memo for over half a year. Yet, the U.S. Attorney pressured witnesses to testify using the word "bribes" -- and more -- and gladly offered Galardi's absurd testimony at trial.

Allow me to say it: That conduct is an outrage deserving of dismissal and investigation by a special prosecutor! Indeed, Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens' case received a post-conviction dismissal and assignment of a special prosecutor for failures to disclose.

Many lives were destroyed; a wrongful conviction was obtained; and the political landscape of San Diego was radically altered by the "alleged" actions of the U.S. Attorney. But there's more.

Carol Lam was the U.S. Attorney who indicted Ralph Inzunza.

What was not then disclosed, but has slowly emerged, primarily through defense investigations arising from Lam's flimsy pension-related indictments, is that Pat Shea's wife, Diann Shipione, was Carol Lam's financial adviser. In addition, Diann Shipione has stated she's known Carol Lam for 20 years. The United States has worked mightily to prevent disclosing the true extent of Lam's relationship with Shipione. From her intimate role in the now-dismissed pension indictments, it's clear that Shipione held considerable sway with Lam and had extraordinary access.

Moreover, recall that in June 2001, Pat Shea was a partner with major law firm Pillsbury Winthrop and was a friend and former classmate of then-President George W. Bush at Harvard, where Bush received an MBA and Shea his JD and MBA.

In July 2001, Shea shifted from his lucrative law partnership and became the president of Brown Field Aviation Park LLC (BFAP). The only important BFAP asset was the exclusive negotiating relationship with the city of San Diego for the 870-acre Brown Field airport. After a six-hour hearing on Oct. 1, 2001, the San Diego City Council unanimously (8-0) voted Shea's project down for many good reasons.

Shea blamed Inzunza for his enormous personal loss. Shea and Shipione apparently held considerable animus toward Mayor Murphy and Ralph Inzunza for their respective roles in voting against Shea's billion-dollar Brown Field airport deal with the city.

On Aug. 1, 2002, the Bush administration announced Carol Lam as U.S. Attorney. Note that all Assistant U.S. Attorneys are political appointees and can be freely discharged by the U.S. Attorney.

On Aug. 13, 2003, three months after Lam ordered the FBI to theatrically raid Inzunza's offices in May 2003, Union-Tribune columnist Neil Morgan wrote that his friend: "Pat Shea can't forget that Bechtel Corp., which won the Iraq reconstruction contract 'is the same company our (Shea's) Wall Street group had contracted with to construct the expansion of Brown Field, a city-owned airfield, as a cargo airport ...' But led by Ralph Inzunza, the City Council convened a public hearing in nearby San Ysidro, where owners of Pardee Homes and others shouted down the idea. Shortly thereafter, a supposedly shocked City Council voted down the Brown Field gift."

Morgan's and Shea's rash mischaracterization of the extraordinarily civil and detailed Brown Field public hearing as a "shouting down" reflects the powerful slant Shea conveyed to others. Query: Over the years, did Carol Lam ever become aware of suggestions Inzunza was responsible for a huge financial loss to her friends, Shea and Shipione?

In 2005, federal Judge Jeffrey T. Miller challenged Galardi's dramatic testimony as "not credible." Though not assessed as warranting a new trial, consider if Judge Miller had also been aware of the context of various unrevealed relationships between Shea, Shipione, Lam and Inzunza raising questions of possible prosecutorial motive or bias, coupled with now revealed repeated instances of the Justice Department withholding exculpatory evidence, resulting in convictions?

Isn't that justice undone?


Coffey is an attorney based in San Diego. He can be reached at daniel.coffey@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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