Hard Knocks

— Today is judgment day for John D'Intino, the last remaining defendant in the long-running Cheetahs city hall bribery scandal, who on September 2, 2003, pled guilty to felony gun possession and wire fraud conspiracy charges in a deal with federal prosecutors. In a sentencing memorandum filed last week, D'Intino's attorney, Geoffrey C. Morrison, laid out his case for clemency. "Mr. D'Intino is a 55-year-old man who, although he suffered a misdemeanor drug conviction that was later set aside in 1972, as well as two driving under the influence convictions in 1988 and 1997, has led a law abiding life," Morrison asserts. A veteran of the restaurant business, D'Intino got more than his share of bad breaks, the memo says, including the abrupt ending in 1993 of his five-year ownership of the bar and grill at the Viejas casino when "certain tribal members 'made him an offer he could not refuse' to abandon the lucrative concession and return it to Native American control." Later, D'Intino set up a "lucrative automated teller machine concession" at Cheetahs and other local strip joints. Then, while he was in jail for two years awaiting sentencing, Jack Galardi, father of Cheetahs owner Mike Galardi, "edged Mr. D'Intino out of the ATM business, and Mr. D'Intino no longer has any interest in ATM concessions."

The defendant chose to serve time in downtown's federal lockup pending sentencing, "preferring to 'pay the price' that he ultimately would have to face rather than having it hanging over his head." But "in custody, Mr. D'Intino did not have a pleasant experience," according to the memo. He "was the target of frequent taunts by fellow inmates who, based on the 'prisoners' code,' looked down on him as a 'snitch' and a 'rat.' His personal affects were repeatedly stolen, he was verbally threatened, and his glasses were broken on repeated occasions. During his incarceration, his wife left him, and this experience was particularly painful given his extreme isolation and his inability to reach out to her to broker some sort of rapprochement."

As it turned out, D'Intino, who was day manager at Cheetahs, never testified in the case against Michael Zucchet and Ralph Inzunza, the two San Diego city councilmen ultimately convicted by a jury for trying to loosen up the city's "no touch" rule for strippers in exchange for political favors; the government decided it didn't need him. But the memo says he "listened to countless tapes, read numerous transcripts, and spoke extensively with the prosecutors and case agents." As for his own role in the crime, his attorney argues, "it was not until Mr. Galardi brought in Lance Malone, a lobbyist and former politician well acquainted with bribery of public officials, that Mr. D'Intino's efforts crossed over from legitimate lobbying activities to illegal bribery." D'Intino seeks a sentence of time served plus three years of supervised release and no fine.

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