U.S.

Calif. Sen. Ron Calderon indicted for political corruption

Indictment comes four months after an Al Jazeera investigation revealed the lawmaker accepted bribes

California state Sen. Ron Calderon was indicted on political corruption charges Friday.
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A federal grand jury indicted Democratic California state Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother, Tom, on charges of political corruption, officials announced in a press conference Friday.

The 24-count indictment was filed Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles against the state senator and his brother, a former state lawmaker who now works as a lobbyist.

The indictment comes four months after an Al Jazeera investigation published a leaked affidavit that revealed Ron Calderon had accepted $88,000 in bribes from an undercover agent. After Al Jazeera published the affidavit, Calderon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking a judge to sanction the federal prosecutors responsible for the leak.

READ: US rejects Calderon's complaints on leaked affidavit

Shepard Kopp, the attorney for Tom Calderon, said his client would plead not guilty and fight the charges.

He said the only counts against Tom Calderon are for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, but that even those charges were baseless.

"Every single action they describe my client as having taken was done with innocent intent and no knowledge that there was anything illegal about any of these acts," Kopp said.

“The indictment alleged that he knew that there were payments being made that were bribes or money that was being paid so that he would take some kind of legislative action. Nothing could be further from the truth."

The affidavit also alleges Ron Calderon "participated in a separate bribery scheme with Michael D. Drobot," the CEO of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, accepting a $28,000 bribe from him for "supporting legislation that would delay or limit changes in California's workers' compensation laws."

The state senator is also being investigated in connection with an FBI sting in which undercover FBI agents posing as film studio executives tried to get him to reduce the amount of money independent filmmakers must spend on a film's budget from $1 million to $750,000 in order to qualify for a state tax credit.

As part of his pay-to-play approach to politics, Ron Calderon also accepted trips on privately chartered planes, golf at exclusive resorts and meals at expensive restaurants, according to the filing.

Additionally, the state senator "would take steps to disguise, conceal, and cover up the bribe payments he was receiving," the indictment said.

"Defendant Ronald S. Calderon would seek and accept bribes and kickbacks in the form of financial benefits and payments to himself, his children, and to Californians for Diversity and the Calderon Group," the indictment states, referencing political groups the brothers set up so they could solicit donations and essentially pay themselves.

The FBI raided the senator’s offices in June 2013.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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