DA offers La Puente mayor probation if he pleads guilty to perjury charge

LA PUENTE – Prosecutors have offered Mayor Louie Lujan a plea deal in a perjury case against him.

Lujan, who faces one felony count of perjury for filing an allegedly false campaign finance report, will appear Thursday in a court that officials said handles cases before they enter the traditional criminal court process.

“If he enters a plea on this count as charged, then that will end the case,” said Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division.

The plea offer consists of three years probation and a $1,000 fine, Huntsman said.

Thursday’s court date in Superior Court is for an early disposition hearing, where it is determined if a case can be “disposed of early,” Deputy Clerk Lorraine Valdez said.

There is no testimony or witnesses, she said.

The prosecution and defense must both agree to enter the early disposition hearing, Huntsman said.

A judge would have to sign off on an agreed plea deal, officials said.

Lujan and his attorney, Glen Jonas, did not return repeated calls Monday for comment.

Lujan, 33, is accused of failing to report money from a December 2008 fund-raiser. He also failed to report how his campaign account spent the money, according to the criminal complaint.

Lujan pleaded not guilty to the charge.

If convicted, Lujan would be removed from office and barred from ever holding elected office again, Huntsman said.

Huntsman declined to comment on what may come of the evidence if Lujan doesn’t agree to the deal.

Investigators had been investigating Lujan since last year in connection with a Dec. 4, 2008, fund-raiser at the home of city Planning Commissioner Charles Klinakis.

Lujan claimed that he collected no campaign money for the second half of 2008, according to a campaign finance report filed last February. He also claimed his campaign was $6,806.54 in the red.

The mayor later filed amendments in his campaign-finance reports dating back to 2007.

The revised filings showed Lujan actually had $5,907.42 in the second half of 2008.

Lujan has previously denied wrongdoing, claiming inadvertent errors on campaign contribution forms are common.

If Lujan decides against the terms of a plea deal, he could enter an open plea or a preliminary hearing would be scheduled, officials said.

The defense indicates they want an early disposition of the case, said spokeswoman Jane Robison of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors don’t request that a case go to early disposition court, she said.

“We don’t force a defendant to plead,” Robison said. “It’s up to a defendant to say, `Hey, I want to plea early.”‘

If Lujan were to step down, the city council would have to decide within 30 days whether to appoint someone to fill the position or call a city-run special election, City Attorney Rick Olivarez said.

Council members David Argudo, Dan Holloway and John Solis said they didn’t know about a plea deal.

Councilwoman Nadia Mendoza did not return a message seeking comment.

Holloway said he could comment but he didn’t think it would be appropriate.

“I have no comment until after the legal process is settled in the courts,” he said.

Solis said the city staff had already been directed to look into what may happen if Lujan were to vacate his position.

“We don’t want to be caught not knowing what’s going on,” he said.

About the case, Solis said: “We’ll know Thursday what’ll happen.”

Councilman David Argudo said he wished Lujan luck on whatever the case’s outcome may be.

“I hope this comes to a resolution here soon and we can look forward to moving the city in the right direction,” he said.


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