A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Friday threw out several embezzlement counts against three defendants in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum corruption case, but ruled they must stand trial on related charges of bribery and conspiracy.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy granted a motion by defense attorneys to dismiss 11 counts involving money that two rave concert promoters paid to the Coliseum’s events manager at the time, Todd DeStefano.
The attorneys had argued that the money could not have been embezzled because it did not belong to the publicly owned Coliseum before it went to DeStefano.
Kennedy, however, decided that DeStefano and promoters Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami will each face a count of conspiracy to embezzle the use of Coliseum property for the concerts that generated the money.
The three also face bribery counts in connection with payments to DeStefano. All have pleaded not guilty.
In addition, the indictment returned last year charges DeStefano with criminal conflict of interest and embezzling money that should have gone to the Coliseum from other parties that did business with the stadium, such as Coca Cola and DreamWorks.
Three others have been indicted, including Coliseum General Manager Patrick Lynch.
Lynch has pleaded guilty to conflict of interest and returned $385,000 in alleged kickbacks from a stadium contractor. The contractor is a fugitive in a case.
The sixth defendant, former Coliseum technology manager Leopold Caudillo Jr., is accused of conflict of interest and has pleaded not guilty.
DeStefano’s attorney, Michael Nasatir, said Friday that Kennedy’s ruling shows that his client did not pocket money that belonged to the taxpayers. “It wasn’t the Coliseum’s money in the first place,” Nasatir said.
In a statement, Rotella’s attorney, Gary Jay Kaufman, said: “The ruling confirms what we’ve maintained from Day One -- that Mr. Rotella didn’t steal a penny from the Coliseum -- he paid money.”
Prosecuting Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman said he wished Kennedy would have upheld all of the embezzlement counts, but added the ruling makes little practical difference in the case against the promoters and DeStefano.
“They’re facing substantially the same amount of prison time as they were before,” Huntsman said.
He estimated the promoters could be sentenced to a maximum of six or seven years in prison and DeStefano up to 10 years.
The case grew out of a series of Times reports in 2011 that initially focused on DeStefano’s financial ties to Rotella’s firm, Insomniac Inc. In the indictment, DeStefano is charged with taking about $2 million from Rotella and Gerami to help them win approval for their concerts from the Coliseum Commission and to keep their costs down.
A trial date has not been set.