Politics & Government

Ron Calderon says FBI asked him to secretly record conversations with Steinberg, de León

Lashing back at federal officials and Senate colleagues, state Sen. Ron Calderon charged in a federal filing late Wednesday that authorities leaked an FBI affidavit against him after Calderon refused to participate in a sting operation targeting Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Kevin de León.

The filing in Sacramento federal court urges a judge to hold the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles in contempt, contending that last month’s release of a sealed FBI affidavit “has prejudiced any future grand jury proceeding and irreparably tainted any future court proceedings involving Senator Calderon.”

“The source of the leaked affidavit could only have come from the FBI and/or the (U.S. Attorney’s Office) which was directing the FBI operation,” the filing reads, adding that “the egregious constitutional violations” were meant to “shame Senator Calderon into accepting a plea agreement.”

Calderon, D-Montebello, contends in the filing that FBI agents and federal prosecutors repeatedly pressured him to wear a wire to secretly record conversations with Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and de León, D-Los Angeles. The document alleges that agents told Calderon they were investigating Steinberg’s financial ties to Michael Drobot, the former chief executive officer of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.

Calderon, though, said he returned the recording equipment unused. Soon after, the filing says, FBI agents raided Calderon’s Capitol office in retaliation.

In a statement, Steinberg said Calderon’s filing “is pure fantasy.” De León declined to comment. His office has previously said he has been told he is not a target of the investigation.

Late last month, Al Jazeera America posted the FBI affidavit, which alleges that Calderon took $60,000 in bribes from an FBI agent posing as a film studio owner and $28,000 in bribes from Drobot. Drobot’s lawyer has called the allegations baseless.

Calderon is quoted in that document as saying he was working with Steinberg on legislation to lower the threshold for film tax credits to $750,000 from $1million. The affidavit also describes de León amending one bill at Calderon’s request in a way that would have less impact on Drobot’s business.

Calderon alleges that federal prosecutors leaked the affidavit in an attempt to convict him in the press through an orchestrated campaign of “illegal disinformation.”

He says in his filing that critical facts regarding the federal government’s activities were omitted or misrepresented including that Steinberg and de León were “main targets of the investigation, for which Sen. Calderon was requested to be the FBI’s informant.”

Calderon also alleges that leaked sealed records are apparently the “modus operandi” for handling high-profile cases by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas M. Miller’s office, including one involving champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was accused of doping.

“The pattern of illegal leaks in cases handled by the AUSA-CDC has grown more brazen over the years culminating in the most flagrant and prejudicial violations yet with respect to Senator Calderon,” the filing says. “There is a systematic and systemic pattern of contempt for secrecy rules in (Miller’s) cases resulting in the complete corruption of the legal process and character assassination of his targets. This conduct is deeply disturbing given that (he) purports to represent the public corruption division within the AUSA’s office.”

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, declined to comment Wednesday evening.

Calderon alleges that the release of the sealed records has already caused him harm. His filing cites Steinberg’s comments at a Tuesday hearing, in which the Senate Rules Committee stripped Calderon of his committee assignments.

Mark Geragos, Calderon’s lawyer, said Steinberg’s move prompted the latest legal action.

“He (Steinberg) decided he was going to believe the uncorroborated hearsay allegations in an illegally leaked affidavit and he was going to violate the Constitution,” Geragos said. “That’s fine. We are not going to stand here and take that.”

While Steinberg spokesman Rhys Williams said the Senate leader has been told he is not a subject of the investigation, Geragos said “we have indisputable proof that they were targeting Steinberg.”

Wednesday’s filing included a document it said showed Calderon returned a recording device to federal officials.

There have been calls for Calderon to resign by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and other officials in Calderon’s east Los Angeles County district. Earlier Wednesday, Calderon issued a statement slamming Garcia for “assuming the role of judge and jury,” adding that his current problems could befall “anyone in public office.”

“Sometimes one is better served to act in kindness than in self-righteousness, because all politicians live in glass houses,” Calderon said.