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Jury deliberates elections code violation case against judge

A jury has begun deliberating in the case of a Los Angeles County Superior Court commissioner accused of offering to pay his only opponent to switch races so he could run unopposed.

Family court Judge Harvey Silberman, who was ultimately elected to Superior Court Seat 69 in the 2008 race, faces an allegation of violating the elections code by signing off on a proposal to pay the $1,787 it would have cost his opponent to run for a different seat. The code makes it a felony to pay or solicit money to dissuade someone from running for public office.

In closing arguments Thursday, a prosecutor told jurors that phone records and testimony showed Silberman had authorized his campaign consultant to make the offer to his opponent, Deputy Dist. Atty. Serena Murillo. Silberman was worried about running against Murillo because she is Latina, Deputy Atty. Gen. Zee Rodriguez argued.

An attorney for the judge, who has been off the bench since he was indicted in 2009, said whatever offer was made was the work of rogue, overzealous campaign consultants acting of their own accord.

Silberman’s two consultants, who were also indicted, have since pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and testified against their former client. The judge’s attorney, Shepard Kopp, contended that the consultants, Evelyn Alexander and Alan Steinberg, took the stand out of self interest and told jurors their testimony should not be believed.

If convicted, Silberman faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.

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-- Victoria Kim

 
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