Senate panel hires attorney to advise on Calderon probe

SACRAMENTO -- The California Senate’s ethics committee has hired an outside attorney to advise it on a possible investigation into allegations of corruption contained in an FBI affidavit targeting Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello), officials announced Thursday.

Charles J. Stevens, a former federal prosecutor, will assist the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics in determining what the panel can do without compromising an ongoing probe by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office, according to Chuck Dalldorf, a spokesman for Sen. Richard Roth, the committee chairman.

Senate leaders had indicated in November that the committee would hold off collecting evidence at the request of federal prosecutors, who have not filed any criminal charges.

"I have retained an independent counsel with expertise in federal public corruption investigations to review the facts and make recommendations to the Senate Legislative Ethics Committee on the appropriate course of action moving forward,” Roth said in a statement Thursday.

Stevens is a litigation partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's San Francisco office. He previously served as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California. He will be paid $600 per hour for his work with the ethics panel and there is not yet a budget for the total hours expected to be billed.

"We have an affidavit that contains a bunch of allegations," Roth, a Democrat from Riverside, said in an interview. Stevens will review the affidavit and "make a determination if there are allegations that implicate our Senate standards of conduct and ethical rules and if it is appropriate for the ethics committee to move forward and take a look at those," Roth said.

An FBI affidavit made public in October by the cable news network Al Jazeera indicated that federal officials were investigating allegations that Calderon accepted $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio executive in exchange for pursuing an expansion of tax credits for the film industry.

The lawmaker is also alleged to have taken $28,000 from a Long Beach hospital executive for efforts to affect legislation on workers' compensation claims.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for Calderon, responded in an email: "If an ex Assistant United States Attorney is going to look into the criminal acts of whoever leaked the purported sealed affidavit we welcome the inquiry."


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