A federal jury on Monday convicted San Diego's new acting mayor and a City Council member, both Democrats, of taking payoffs from a club owner to help repeal the city's "no touching" ordinance at strip clubs.
Michael Zucchet was found guilty of conspiracy, extortion and fraud on his first business day as interim mayor. He was suspended, his attorney said. Council member Ralph Inzunza, convicted of the same charges, also was suspended.
The jury also returned guilty verdicts against former Clark County, Nev., commissioner Lance Malone, who worked for strip club owner Michael Galardi to repeal a law prohibiting nude or topless dancers and club patrons from touching each other.
It is not clear who will succeed Zucchet. Mayor Dick Murphy resigned and left office Friday, eight months into a second term cut short by mounting problems at City Hall.
The verdicts were reached on the fourth day of deliberations. Zucchet sat staring straight ahead, occasionally glancing at the ceiling, as the verdicts were read. Each man could be sentenced to three to four years in prison.
Zucchet and Inzunza, both 35, were accused of taking $34,500 in cash and campaign contributions from Galardi in a failed plot to repeal the no-touching ordinance. Malone allegedly delivered the cash from Galardi to Inzunza and Zucchet.
The prosecution's key witness was Galardi, the owner of Cheetahs in San Diego and three other strip clubs in Las Vegas. Galardi testified that he hatched the plan to bribe Zucchet and Inzunza because San Diego's no-touching law was hurting business at Cheetahs. Galardi pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing.