Adding a controversial new twist to a story already packed with political intrigue, embattled State Senator Ron Calderon is claiming the FBI asked him to secretly record California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Senator Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles.
The claim came in a federal complaint filed by Calderon that accuses the FBI and federal prosecutors of retaliating against him for refusing to participate in the sting against his colleagues. It includes a purported "Acknowledgement of Receipt" from the FBI, issued when Calderon's attorney returned the wire equipment.
The complaint was made available by Calderon's attorney, Mark Geragos.
“The FBI was attempting to use Senator Calderon as an informant against Senators Steinberg and de Leon,” according to the complaint. While offering no specific proof, it accuses the federal government of illegally leaking an affidavit detailing bribery allegations against Calderon “in an effort to defame and retaliate” against him for refusing to cooperate.
“It is clear that the FBI…engaged in a campaign to smear the reputation of Senator Calderon and convict him in the press,” the complaint says. “Short of that, they seek to have him removed from office.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles had no comment on the complaint, nor did a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of the affidavit.
Steinberg and de Leon, whose names surfaced in the FBI affidavit, did not respond to requests for comment.
The affidavit, obtained by Al Jazeera America, alleges Calderon accepted bribes from undercover agents posing as film producers. Calderon is a Democrat who represents parts of Southeast Los Angeles County.
This week, the once powerful state senator was stripped of his committee assignments. Wednesday, more than a dozen local elected leaders from his district called for his resignation, including the mayors of Montebello, South Gate, Downey and Bell Gardens.
Calderon’s defense attorney, Geragos, once represented Michael Jackson. He is known for his aggressive strategy. That’s evident in the complaint: “The violations here are thus criminal, contemptible, procedural, and a violation of the Department of Justice’s own rules.”
Geragos also lays the groundwork for a possible future defense of his client.
“The release of the sealed records has prejudiced any future grand jury proceeding and irreparably tainted any future court proceedings involving Senator Calderon.”