Ron Calderon, a Democrat and a member of a California political
dynasty that goes back several decades, had turned himself in
earlier in the day to face two dozen counts of bribery, fraud, money
laundering and conspiracy.
Calderon, who appeared handcuffed and shackled in his street clothes
at a brief hearing at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, was
ordered freed on $50,000 bond after surrendering his passport and
agreeing not to leave the United States. The 56-year-old lawmaker
was also ordered to return to court in March.
"The United States views these charges as very serious. Today is
just the first step in a long process to seek justice for a corrupt
politician," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins said outside court
following the hearing.
But Calderon's attorney, Mark Geragos, asked the public not rush to
judgment against his client, who he said remained in relatively good
spirits despite trying circumstances.
"There is still a presumption of innocence in this country," Geragos
Calderon is accused in a 28-page federal grand jury indictment of
taking some $100,000 in cash bribes, along with plane trips, golf
outings and jobs for his children, in exchange for influencing
State senate leader Darrell Steinberg, a fellow Democrat, has called
on Calderon to resign or take a leave of absence during the criminal
proceedings, saying the senate would otherwise seek to suspend him.
The senator's brother, Tom Calderon, a former member of the
California State Assembly, was also named in the indictment and
charged with conspiracy and seven counts of money laundering.
Prosecutors say Ron Calderon accepted bribes from Long Beach
hospital owner Michael Drobot, who has agreed to plead guilty to
separate federal charges, to preserve a legislative loophole that
allowed Drobot to defraud the state's healthcare system out of
hundreds of millions of dollars.
Drobot is cooperating in the case
against the Calderon brothers, prosecutors say.
[to top of second column]
Calderon is also accused of accepting money from undercover FBI
agents posing as executives from an independent Hollywood movie
studio in exchange for supporting an expansion of film tax credits
The two Calderons are accused of laundering the bribe money by
funneling it through Tom Calderon's consulting firm, Californians
Tom Calderon, 59, entered a not guilty plea to the charges against
him on Friday, and his defense attorney, Shepard Kopp, said he
"categorically denies" the charges against him.
In June, FBI agents raided the Sacramento offices of Ron Calderon
and the California legislature's Latino Caucus, where he was a
member of the executive board.
Calderon was later removed from the board of the Latino Caucus and
from his legislative committee assignments by his colleagues because
of the investigation.
If convicted at trial, Ron Calderon, who also faces tax fraud
charges, may face a statutory maximum of nearly 400 years in prison,
although federal sentencing guidelines typically call for much less
time. Tom Calderon could face a maximum of 160 years behind bars.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Cynthia Johnston, Andrew Hay,
G. Crosse and Eric Walsh)
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