Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Calif.), charged with trying to pay a campaign rival to quit, today accused Los Angeles County District Attorney Ira Reiner of using her to deflect publicity from his political problems and challenged a grand juror's participation in the case.
Fiedler and her closest aide, Paul Clarke, were indicted last week for allegedly offering state Sen. Ed Davis $100,000 to withdraw from the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Alan Cranston. Their arraignment, scheduled today, was postponed at their attorneys' request until next week.
After appearing briefly this morning in Los Angeles Superior Court, Fiedler held a news conference on the steps of City Hall, calling the charges "a farce, an outrage."
"Let me tell you how I feel about the district attorney," Fiedler said. "I think this situation is a political ploy on his part. This was a way of diverting attention from what he had done in McMartin. It was a convenient vehicle."
Earlier this month, Reiner dismissed charges against five of the seven defendants in the emotionally charged McMartin Preschool molestation case after 17 months of pretrial proceedings at a cost of at least $4 million. The initial witness list included more than 40 youngsters.
Fiedler also questioned why Richard Ferraro, who served with her on the Los Angeles Board of Education in the late '70s and sits on the Los Angeles County grand jury, participated in the vote on Fiedler and Clarke. The sealed indictment was handed down Thursday.
"I am very interested to see why someone who knew me as well as he did didn't excuse himself," Fiedler said. ". . . No way can he possibly render an objective opinion."
Questioned last week by Orange County Register reporter Adam Dawson, Ferraro said, "Yes, I did vote. Absolutely." Ferraro declined to say how he voted and added that he has no animosity toward Fiedler and saw nothing wrong with his participation in the case.
Fiedler said today that she and Ferraro sometimes "had strong agreements, and there were times we had a division of opinion." Current school board members who served with both remember them as antibusing allies who were, said one, "always friendly." But one observer recalls Fiedler having once said of Ferraro, "You know, it's really embarrassing, being on the same side as that dumb expletive ."
Fiedler also said she was "very much perplexed" that Davis, "someone who I worked with in the past . . . whose daughter's wedding I was invited to . . . would go to such an extreme to try to knock me out of a political race that was going very well for me."
Davis said today that after information was leaked that his campaign was $100,000 in debt, a Fiedler supporter called Davis' campaign manager Nov. 8 to say, in Davis' words, that "he was really embarrassed to do this . . . . We understand you are $100,000 in debt, and if you drop out of the race, the Fiedler campaign will take care of it."
A source close to the Fiedler campaign has said that Davis' campaign manager, wired for sound, approached Fiedler in January and that Fiedler said she wanted "no quid pro quo" for helping Davis retire his campaign debt.
Fiedler's attorney raised the matter of Ferraro's vote in court this morning, but Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz would not address it.
Fiedler, 48, and Clarke, 39, each spoke just one word, replying "Yes," when asked whether they waved their right to a trial within 60 days.
After Fiedler's attorneys and deputy District Attorney Candace Beason traded charges about pretrial motions, Munoz gazed from the bench to ask, "Is everybody through posturing for the cameras?" He then rescheduled arraignment for Feb. 7.