A deputy district attorney at least twice misrepresented key testimony and taped evidence while summarizing for grand jurors the alleged election law violations that led to the indictment last month of Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Calif.) and her top aide, Paul J. Clarke, according to a grand jury transcript released Wednesday night.
The statements by Deputy District Attorney Candace J. Beason indicate the contradictory and confusing nature of the known evidence against Fiedler and Clarke, her fiance, who allegedly offered state Sen. Ed Davis, one of Fiedler's opponents for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, $100,000 to quit the race.
The 361-page transcript of the grand jury's deliberations Jan. 13-15 reveals that Beason recommended against indicting Fiedler on the ground that she never personally told Davis' aides that her assistance in retiring his $100,000 campaign debt was tied to his withdrawal from the race.
Beason recommended that Clarke be indicted, and 18 of the 21 grand jurors agreed; three abstained. The first vote on indicting Fiedler was inconclusive; after several additional votes and requests to rehear some of the tape recordings and testimony in the case, at least 14 grand jurors voted to indict her. The tapes were secretly recorded by Davis campaign manager Martha Zilm.
Fiedler and Clarke and their attorneys have argued that the prosecutors and the grand jury ignored or misunderstood the fact that all of their conversations with Davis' aides, particularly Zilm, were based on the assumption that Davis had already decided to withdraw from the Senate race. At a seven-hour news conference Wednesday night in which most of the key tapes made by Zilm were played, Fiedler's attorneys said the offer of money was made only to secure Davis' endorsement of Fiedler, which would not violate California law.
In her closing summation to the jury, Beason said that "with Paul Clarke, there is no question that he has done his best to encourage, to facilitate, to tempt Ed Davis to withdraw from the campaign in exchange for paying off the campaign debt."
And in her opening remarks, Beason had quoted Zilm as saying on one of the tapes: "Just so I'm clear, this is the offer: Ed will withdraw from the campaign, and he'll only do that if you're paying the debt." Beason then told the grand jury: "And Mr. Clarke acknowledges that that's the agreement."
But on the tape of the conversation played Wednesday, Clarke said: "Well, as Arnie [Steinberg, a Fiedler pollster] told you, we will do our best . . . . You know I can't guarantee that."
Beason also told grand jurors "the evidence will show that sometime in the fall of 1985 . . . Mr. [Arthur] Pfefferman [a Fiedler contributor] made a telephone call to George Moss [a Davis supporter] indicating that the Fiedler campaign was aware that Ed Davis' campaign had a debt of approximately $100,000 [and] if Ed Davis would agree to withdraw from the campaign, the Fiedler people would take care of the debt."
Moss told investigators before his grand jury appearance that Pfefferman had mentioned just a general wish to have the two camps discuss reports that Davis wished to withdraw from the race. Before the grand jury, Moss said Pfefferman "indicated that supporters of Fiedler would be willing to retire [Davis'] campaign debt . . . , assuming that he withdrew."
But Pfefferman told the grand jury that he had informed Moss "of the rumor that we had heard that Ed was in deep debt and looking for a way out with an issue, and he couldn't raise money. And that as long as he's dropping out of the race, we'd like him to come on board and support Bobbi Fiedler."
The transcript indicates that both Pfefferman and Moss were given immunity from prosecution before testifying.
Beason was not available for comment today.
The testimony the grand jurors asked to rehear before voting to indict Fiedler concerned a telephone conversation that Zilm testified she had with Fiedler. Zilm said the conversation was not recorded because she was nervous and accidentally hit the "pause" button on her tape recorder.
Zilm testified that, in the conversation, she said that the financial assistance to Davis "was in exchange for Ed's withdrawal from the race. And at that point, she [Fiedler] said, 'I understand that he would endorse me.' "