Community Magazine

Former Rosemead Mayor Counters Federal Opposition to Plea Withdrawal

By Wonder

Attempting to dodge sentencing on federal bribery charges, former Rosemead Mayor John Tran deflected attacks on his character from the prosecution with further justification to withdraw his guilty plea.

According to a statement filed on Nov. 26 by his attorney, Michael Zweiback, Tran believes the prosecutor had not provided full discovery as part of the bargaining process to induce a guilty plea, thus justifying the withdrawal of his plea.

“There can be no doubt that defendant’s plea was induced by a misrepresentation,” Zweiback wrote in his reply to the prosecution’s filed opposition to his client’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. He further explained in the statement that the “defendant has shown there is in fact newly discovered evidence that was unknown to him prior to entry of his plea.”

The statement claims that the defense uncovered substantial evidence that impeaches the government’s key witness, as well as uncovered new witnesses and evidence. And, according to Zweiback, “Mr. Tran was not made aware of the evidence raising serious credibility issues about the government’s key witness until after he pled guilty.”

The defense notes that this newly discovered evidence is admissible to show “bias, motive and a character trait of untruthfulness” in the FBI’s confidential informant, who is identified as Tammy Gong in court filings.

Gong is assumed to be the developer who gave Tran more than $10,000 as part of a pay-to-play scheme to approve her project at Valley Boulevard and Rio Hondo Avenue. According to court documents, Gong went to the FBI only after Tran failed to make good on his word.

In Zweiback’s statement, the defense further claimed that Gong, the confidential informant, has been “found liable for various instances of fraudulent misrepresentations (so egregious that punitive damages were awarded against her).”

The defense said that while no “extrinsic evidence” is admissible to impeach her on the basis of past charges for fraud or forgery, Gong couldn’t deny the existence of public court records in former lawsuits that accuse her of these illegal acts.

Noting that her former business partners would be able to testify as to her dishonest reputation and motivation by money, the statement explained, “These witnesses can testify as to her reputation in the real estate development community, which is necessarily intertwined with her litigation history, since her 43-plus lawsuits since 1999 frequently center on fraud and misrepresentations in her business dealings, the same subject matter for which she alleges she offered money to the defendant.”

The defense also warned that a conviction in this case would undoubtedly help Gong in her $10 million civil suit against the City of Rosemead, claiming that “her cooperation with the government may in fact secure her own non-prosecution for the corruption she has readily admitted.”

Zweiback’s statement was a reply to federal prosecutors’ motion on Nov. 19 to oppose Tran’s guilty plea withdrawal.

Going after Tran’s own character flaws, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Akrotirianakis alleged in his statement that Tran had accepted bribes to sponsor a gambling addiction, while also soliciting sexual favors from the developer.

Zweiback responded by saying the defense has admitted to Tran’s gambling problem and claims that he is seeking treatment to confront this personal issue.

Tran’s next hearing date is set for Monday, Dec. 3, when the judge will consider arguments from both sides and rule on whether he can change his plea and go to trial.

Tran admitted in March to taking bribes from the Rosemead developer. In exchange for his plea agreement, he would not be charged with either obstruction of justice or extortion.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

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