3 Councilmen in San Diego Indicted
SAN DIEGO â€" Three members of the San Diego
City Council were indicted Thursday for allegedly taking
illegal campaign contributions from the owner of a
nude-dancing establishment in exchange for their promise to
help make it legal for nude dancers to touch patrons or sit
on their laps.
Councilmen Ralph Inzunza, Charles Lewis and Michael Zucchet
were indicted by a federal grand jury along with the owner,
lobbyist and manager of Cheetah's Totally Nude Club.
"The people of San Diego have a right to an open and honest
government," said U.S. Atty. Carol Lam. "We are committed
to ensuring that San Diego is represented by officials who
are free from corrupt influences."
The three councilmen allegedly agreed to persuade their
colleagues to drop a "no-touch" provision in city law that
requires dancers to wear at least G-strings and pasties
when they approach patrons at nude parlors in search of
Cheetah's owner Michael Galardi and Cheetah's lobbyist
Lance Malone, a former Las Vegas police officer and county
commissioner, will surrender in Las Vegas, officials said.
Galardi, who lives in Las Vegas, and his father, Jack, own
a string of nude entertainment bars across the United
The councilmen, protesting their innocence, are set to
surrender today for arraignment in federal court.
"I've never lied to you, I've never let you down, and I
love you all," said Inzunza, addressing his comments to his
supporters and constituents.
Attorney Frank Ragen, who represents Lewis, said: "We
continue to assert that there has been no bribery and there
is no corruption."
Mayor Dick Murphy, a former Superior Court judge, said he
believes that the three councilmen should remain in their
posts during the criminal process and not consider
"If they believe they haven't committed a crime, they
should fight this," Murphy said. "I spent 15 years as a
judge and I presided over hundreds of criminal trials.
People were found not guilty in my courtroom."
Murphy said that these were not the first indictments of
San Diego City Council members and not all indictments have
ended in convictions â€" a reference to a case
in the 1970s in which a council majority was indicted for
allegedly taking bribes from Yellow Cab Co. One council
member was convicted; cases against the others were dropped
or ended in not-guilty verdicts.
Zucchet, flanked by his tearful wife and holding their
daughter Molly, told reporters that he is confident of
"This has been especially hard on Michael and I because we
have a beautiful 3-month-old baby daughter," Teresa Zucchet
said. "We would love to spend our time and energy on
parenting her. Instead we've had to focus so much attention
on this investigation."
Zucchet's attorney, Michael L. Lipman, said that
"everything Michael did was normal and standard. It happens
every day between elected officials and lobbyists."
Lewis and Inzunza were council aides before being elected
to succeed their bosses; both were criticized during their
campaigns for taking contributions from associates of the
nude entertainment industry. Lewis was elected in 2002;
Inzunza was elected in 2001 to fill out the term of
now-Assemblyman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and then
reelected in 2002.
Zucchet was director of governmental affairs for the
firefighters union before his election in 2002.
The case against the three was built on conversations
recorded by FBI agents through wiretaps and listening
devices planted in City Hall. Council members were followed
and their cellular telephone conversations recorded,
according to the indictment.
In one phone call, Inzunza allegedly promised Malone that
lifting the "no-touch" provision would be hidden in an
overall review of the city's nude entertainment law that
would include some new restrictions as a smokescreen.
Inzunza allegedly told Malone that the new ordinance would
have "four or five things that sort of slaps you guys on
the hand and then we'll allow touching." In the phone
calls, Malone and Galardi allegedly boasted of how much
influence their contributions had bought at the City
"So I'll get Lance down there, just start building little
relationships with 'em," Galardi allegedly said. "That's
all it takes. Then once they know they can trust us,
believe me they'll have that hand out."
Dancers and owners of nude businesses complain that the
no-touch rule costs them money because male patrons are
more likely to give money to a naked woman than to one
wearing pasties and a G-string.
The rule was adopted by the council in November 2000. At
the same time, vice cops vowed increased enforcement of a
provision requiring nude dancers to stay at least 6 feet
away from patrons.
The indictments were the product of a three-year
investigation by the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI.
The case burst into public view on May 14, when FBI agents
raided the council members' City Hall offices and three
strip clubs owned by Galardi.
Galardi, Malone and Cheetah's manager John D'Intino also
were charged with trying to bribe a San Diego vice officer
to provide warnings whenever undercover officers planned
unannounced visits to Cheetah's in search of violations of
the city's "no-touch" law. The indictment does not suggest
that the council members knew of the attempted bribery.
According to the indictment, Galardi and Malone agreed to
contribute thousands of dollars to the campaign funds of
the three council members but to disguise the origin of the
contributions by having other people sign the checks. City
law limits individual contributions to $500 and prohibits
anyone from reimbursing a contributor.
Although violations of campaign laws are usually dealt with
by state prosecutors and the state Fair Political Practices
Commission, the case became a federal matter because of the
suggestion of bribery, Lam said.
The San Diego contributions reportedly came to light during
wiretaps employed by federal authorities in a Las
Vegas-based investigation of the strip-club industry. A
federal grand jury in Las Vegas also is hearing testimony
of possible influence buying.
The alleged covert campaign to change city law never
succeeded and faced an uphill struggle even if three
council members had supported it. Any bid to change the
"no-touch" ordinance would have required five votes on the
nine-member City Council and probably would have been
opposed by the mayor, city attorney, city manager and
police chief, City Hall insiders agreed.
San Diego defense attorney Eugene Iredale said he believes
that the indictment, "if it's not making something out of
nothing, is certainly making a lot out of very little."
Iredale said the three councilmen were engaging only in the
"legislative log-rolling" that is part of American politics
from the White House to the local city council, where
elected officials do the bidding of campaign
And he decried the fact that the alleged bribery attempt of
the police officer by Galardi and Malone was mentioned in
the same indictment as that of the council members.
"There is no evidence that the council members knew of
that," Iredale said. "It's an attempt to smear them by
lumping it all together."
Iredale represented a former Cheetah's employee who was
called by federal prosecutors but ultimately was not
required to testify.
The three councilmen were indicted on charges of wire
fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion. The
wire fraud allegedly involves telephone calls, and the
extortion is an outgrowth of the alleged request for money
in exchange for legislative favors.
Galardi, Malone and D'Intino were charged with wire fraud,
conspiracy to commit wire fraud and interstate travel to
David Cowan, who is an aide to Lewis, was charged with
lying to the FBI.
In a separate indictment, D'Intino and another Galardi
associate, Charles Tappe, were indicted on charges of
having unregistered firearms, including machine guns,
silencers and pistols with obliterated serial numbers.
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