Capitol Alert

Key figure in CalPERS bribery case too ill for trial, lawyer says

Businessman Alfred Villalobos’ lawyer said Monday his client is too sick to stand trial on charges of bribing the former chief executive of CalPERS.

Villalobos’ trial is set to begin Feb. 23 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

In a court filing Monday, attorney Bruce Funk said Villalobos has had “numerous stays in the emergency room” in the past few months. “Mr. Villalobos is not physically or mentally able to participate in his defense, or to even sit through a trial,” Funk wrote.

The San Jose attorney said he wants Villalobos’ trial postponed, although he didn’t say for how long. Funk plans to present his argument Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer. Villalobos won’t attend the hearing, Funk said in an interview Monday.

“At the point we are now, he can’t stand trial,” Funk said in the interview.

Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office, in charge of prosecuting Villalobos, couldn’t be reached for comment.

In the court filing, Funk said his client was “incoherent” the last time they spoke on the phone, last Wednesday.

Funk wouldn’t go into details, but Villalobos, 71, has clearly been in declining health. His trial, originally set for last March, was postponed after lawyers said he was suffering from various heart ailments and neurological problems.

When he appeared in court last July, the Reno businessman’s breathing was labored and he walked with two metal canes.

Villalobos is accused of paying $250,000 in bribes to Fred Buenrostro, the former CEO of CalPERS, in an effort to steer pension fund investment dollars to Villalobos’ private equity clients. A former California Public Employees’ Retirement System board member, Villalobos earned $50 million in commissions representing clients seeking CalPERS investments.

Buenrostro has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Villalobos, including $200,000 in cash stuffed in paper bags and a shoebox. The longtime state employee is expected to receive a five-year prison term when he is sentenced May 13.

Villalobos faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee