Defendants Appear in Court as Piazza Legal Drama Unfolds

Defendants to return to court after Piazza project deadline

Written by MATTHEW WONG / Published November 19, 2009 (ONLINE ONLY)

A pre-trial hearing over the Piazza bribery controversy took place in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, July 9, 2009.

The defendants, Temple City mayor Judy Wong, former councilwoman Cathé Wilson and former state assembly and city council candidate Scott Carwile stood before Superior Court judge Patricia Schnegg.

Wong, Wilson and Carwile are accused of illegal solicitation and receipts of bribes. A 21-count indictment against the three defendants was unsealed on June 10.

The prosecution handed over evidence to the defense attorneys at the pre-trial hearing, according to the Pasadena Star News. The defense also picked up copies of the grand jury testimony transcript.

“My client is not guilty of any wrongdoing,” said Sanford Perliss, the legal counsel for councilwoman Wong, to Star News reporter Alfred Lee.

All three criminal defendants have pleaded not-guilty of the charges stemming from developer Randy Wang. In September 2008, Wang filed a counter-suit against the city of Temple City alleging he gave elected officials money in exchange for support of his project.

Shortly after, an official probe by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office-Public Integrity Division began. The D.A.’s office raided City Hall and the homes of former councilmember Dave Capra, Carwile, Wilson and Wong.

On May 27, former Piazza construction manager Jay Liyanage pleaded guilty to a felony charge of giving bribes in 2006. He is expected to testify against Wilson.

Former councilman Capra was also forced to resign from office on June 2.

Due to his willingness to cooperate, the developer will not be charged for any criminal conduct said head district attorney David Demerjian.

Deputy district attorney Max Huntsman is in charge of the case. The defendants are expected to return to trial on August 26.

August 2009 deadline for the project’s completion nears

The $75 million project, formerly known as the “Temple City Galleria” and “Piazza Las Tunas,” was approved by a previous city council in May 2006.

From 2006 to present, Wang has held two groundbreakings, worked with three different construction management firms and proposed changes thrice, in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The developer has until August 23, 2009 to complete his project as mandated by the developer’s agreement he and the city of Temple City signed.

Failure to do so will allow Temple City to purchase the 3.7 acre site for $5 million. However, if city officials are found guilty of Wang’s bribery claims, the contract signed between Wang and the City will be void.

Since the City and the developer sued one another, about $171,000 in legal expenses have been spent by Temple City, as of April 30.

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