By Helga Gendell
Part XXIII of the Marina del Rey history series continues with the legal ramifications of then state Sen. Joseph B. Montoya, one of the principal subjects of a three-year FBI inquiry into political corruption in Sacramento called Brispec (Bribery — Special Interest) after FBI agents raided the offices of Montoya, three other legislators and two legislative aides in March 1989.
The search of Montoya’s office was referenced in Part XXII of the Marina history series.
The business ties between Montoya, Sen. Alan Robbins and Mark Nathanson, then a member of the California Coastal Commission and county Small Craft Harbor Commission, were sourced in Part XXI of the history series.
In a June 13, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “Sen. Montoya and Former Aide Plead Not Guilty,” reporter Paul Jacobs wrote, “Speaking softly but decisively, state Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) and his former aide, Amiel A. Jaramillo, pleaded innocent in federal court to charges of using their public offices for extortion and racketeering. After their arraignment together, the two read terse statements expressing confidence that they will ultimately be found not guilty, but they refused to answer questions.
“Surrounded by staff, friends and family, Montoya said he would ‘vigorously defend my innocence during these court proceedings.’”
In a June 15, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “Robbins Becomes ‘Subject’ of Capitol Corruption Probe,” reporters Jacobs and Mark Gladstone wrote, “Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana) has become a subject of the federal grand jury investigation into political corruption at the state Capitol, according to sources familiar with the probe.
“Investigators from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service have been gathering voluminous records to determine whether a criminal case can be brought against the veteran lawmaker, these sources indicate. Last week, the grand jury subpoenaed files from at least six Senate committees concerning more than 120 bills — more than 50 of which were personally carried by Robbins.”
A June 19, 1989 United Press International article titled “Businessman Tells of Paying $20,000 for Montoya’s Help” states, “A Colorado businessman said he had to pay $20,000 to win passage of a bill authored by state Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) and also to pay for lavish lunches and a hotel room for a Montoya aide and a ‘lady friend.’ Robin Kearns of Ft. Collins said he later ran out of money and refused to pay a $1,500 monthly retainer to Fred Shanbour, a lobbyist recommended by Montoya.
“As a result, he said, the law he wanted passed is now due to expire in the next two or three years. Kerns and his business partner, C. H. Carter, were flown to Sacramento at government expense and interviewed for more than three hours by an FBI agent and federal prosecutor investigating Montoya and his relationship to various lobbyists.”
In a July 21, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “Videotape Shows Sen. Montoya Accepting Check, Lawyer Concedes,” reporter Jacobs wrote, “A crucial videotape to be used in prosecuting Sen. Joseph B. Montoya on federal extortion, racketeering and money-laundering charges shows him accepting a $3,000 check from an undercover FBI agent — a payment made to the senator just for attending the meeting, Montoya’s attorney acknowledged. However, the attorney, Michael S. Sands of Sacramento, contended that the tape will not prove damaging to the Whittier Democrat.”
In an Oct. 11, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “New Charges Filed Against Senator, Aide,” Jacobs wrote, “A federal grand jury added four new charges to its original indictment of Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) and a former top aide, Amiel A. Jaramillo. Montoya will face two charges of bribery in addition to charges of using his office for extortion, racketeering and money laundering that were included in the original indictment filed against the two men last May. Jaramillo has been charged with added counts of extortion and conspiracy.”
In a Nov. 23, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “U.S. Memo Says Montoya Demanded ‘Fees’ for Votes,” Jacobs wrote, “Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) repeatedly and systematically demanded ‘fees for service’ — campaign contributions and honorariums — in exchange for his support of special-interest legislation, federal prosecutors charge in a document filed in U.S. District Court.”
In a Nov. 29, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “Guilty Plea Made in Capitol StingÖ” Jacobs wrote, “A Republican legislative aide, whose refusal to become an FBI informant in 1988 triggered a raid of Capitol offices, pleaded guilty to extorting $12,500 in payments from an undercover agent on behalf of GOP Assembly members.
“Appearing in U.S. District Court, the aide, 42-year-old Karen Watson, formally agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their continuing investigation in exchange for reduced charges and a recommendation of leniency in sentencing.”
In a Dec. 5, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “Jury Selection Begins in Montoya’s Bribery Trial,” reporter Richard C. Paddock wrote, “Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), the first legislator indicted in a federal corruption probe in the state Capitol, went on trial on 12 counts of extortion, bribery, racketeering and money laundering. U.S. District Judge Milton Schwartz, joined by prosecutors, Montoya and his attorneys, spent much of the day questioning individual jurors in private in an effort to impanel a jury that has not been influenced by media coverage of the case.”