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Monday, November 07, 2005 | I oppose every major position Michael Zucchet takes. I’ve said so in the opinion pages. But to keep any faith in the judicial system, let’s hope Judge Jeffrey T. Miller overturns Zucchet’s conviction this Wednesday.

Judge Miller has that power. It’s seldom used. Here’s why it should be done this time:

Zucchet’s campaign speech, of which I attended one, made it clear that he opposed two things. First, he wanted to restrict liquor licenses, thinking areas like Pacific Beach were excessively drunken. And, as he made clear in many talks, he was personally offended by Les Girls, a strip club, having such a visible location in Point Loma. He hoped to close down Les Girls.

I disagreed in both cases. Imposing government taste on private activity scares me, but Zucchet was clear about his intent. He’s a bit of a prude.

Zucchet accepted some Las Vegas money, netting about $5,000. He reported this. And Zucchet listened to lobbyist Lance Malone, who was employed by Michael Gilardi, owner of Las Vegas strip clubs and Cheetahs here. Malone claims, without proof, to have given larger cash handouts to several San Diego council members. One cannot help but imagine, since Malone’s bosses slipped him the bribe money, that if he simply pocketed the cash, it would still be smarter to perjure himself than to let his bosses know that he actually stole their money.

As John L. Smith reported in the Las Vegas Review Journal, on July 20, 2005, “Lance Malone is dead. He just hasn’t been notified yet.” The mob, apparently, isn’t as naïve as either our San Diego jury or our federal prosecutor.

Relax those G-Strings, Les Girls; your franchise has been renewed.

Could it be that the Nevada entertainers slipped a fast one past a “Surf’s Up San Diego” jury and a devout but shallow-investigating prosecutorial team? Well, they promised Malone reduced time for his testimony, but, the guy still faces a different conviction in Las Vegas for taking bribes from Galardi. Galardi also owned the Atlanta Gold Club, a famous strip joint, and when Malone was a councilman in Las Vegas, he voted against allowing the Las Vegas police to interview the employees of that “entertainment” business when connections to organized crime were suspected. Evidence suggests Malone was already accepting money from Galardi then.

The Latin phrase is quid pro quo. This for that. It is the essence of democratic politics, like it or not. Slavery was accepted to make the Constitution possible. Nixon went to China. Roosevelt let Stalin enslave Eastern Europe. Nobody ever has to embrace it.

Current examples might be George Bush accepting several energy groups’ money and reducing EPA standards for power plants. Bill Clinton accepted donations from two felons and pardoned them. Dick Murphy took money from Corky McMillin and voted to support his new hotel construction the following week. Valerie Stallings made money on John Moore’s insider stock tip and voted in favor of his ballpark.

None of these people came close to jail time. Questions were raised. Convictions? Nope.

Con quid, quid, quid e quid pro quo, quo, quo e quo.

Set aside the greater magnitude of those examples, and consider the more fundamental difference. The total difference in Michael Zucchet’s case. He did nothing to benefit his indicted donors. Zero quid pro quo. So we’re not even talking about politics here. Yet Zucchet faces conviction? And did nothing?

I suspect it takes more than the everyday level of courage for any judge to overturn a jury decision. OJ is innocent, right? That tough position is what could make doing the right thing here so noble by Judge Jeffrey T. Miller. Some wise lawmakers somewhere in our past recognized that in rare instances a jury can simply fail. They made it possible for him to now uphold justice.

Let’s hope.

Gary Sutton is a retired CEO. He wrote “CORPORATE CANARIES…Avoid Business Disasters with a Coal Miner’s Secrets.”

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