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First Call

So you’re a USC football star and you’ve been arrested. Who do you call?A well-connected veteran attorney would be nice, preferably a former prosecutor.A former Trojan, one who has guided your teammates safely through criminal matters, would be even better.How about an ex-Trojan, ex-prosecutor on USC’s speed dial who just left the City Attorney’s Office as a special assistant to Rocky Delgadillo? Perfect.Trojan fans take heart; UCLA Bruins fans get ready for a showdown on December 3. Odds are Long Beach attorney Carmen Trutanich will make the potential misdemeanor assault charges against linebacker Rey Maualuga go away without lifting a finger.Trutanich, a defense lawyer known around Delgadillo’s office as “Nooch,” rotated in and out of his staff job on the 8th floor of City Hall so fast recently, it’s hard to tell if he was coming or going. His ability to work both sides of the street is so seamless, he’s humbled: “I try to conduct myself in a way so that my dad, if he was watching, he’d be proud.”Pride is fine, but clients prefer results. And Nooch delivers.Trutanich, USC class of 1973-74, is as much the go-to guy for Trojans in trouble as he is for Delgadillo, whose office will decide in the coming days whether to charge Maualuga for allegedly punching out a partier on Halloween. If charged, Maualuga is scheduled to appear in court November 22.That’s a big if.To say that Trutanich has juice with Delgadillo’s office is an understatement. In four months as special assistant city attorney, from July 1 to November 1, by his own account, he handled sensitive negotiations with the Coliseum Commission and developed a multimillion-dollar proposal for a Bureau of Investigation. He also allegedly blurred the lines in his “monitoring” of a lawsuit filed against Delgadillo and former chief deputy Terree Bowers, despite the city’s conflict of interest that led to the hiring of Baker & Hostetler. The suit has so many Los Angeles judges as witnesses that it was moved to Orange County.Then Maualuga called. It was only natural. Trutanich, a former prosecutor with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, represented former USC cornerback Eric Wright after Wright was arrested on suspicion of rape while in possession of 136 hits of Ecstasy in March. In April, after Trutanich put together a defense team consisting of himself, a Torrance-based attorney and an investigative firm, the D.A.’s Office found insufficient evidence to file sexual-abuse or drug charges, according to news reports.Last year, Trutanich represented running back Hershel Dennis, who emerged from a four-month investigation for alleged sexual assault with no arrest and no charges. NCAA and Pac 10 officials inquired about pay arrangements in both cases. Trutanich said the families paid.In June, Trutanich took a leave of absence from his lucrative practice to serve Delgadillo, who also is running for California attorney general. But first, Trutanich wrapped up a criminal case he was defending, which was prosecuted by the City Attorney’s Office.Within less than a week, he went from criminal defense attorney to Delgadillo campaign contributor to special assistant to Delgadillo.On June 26, the Daily Breeze reported that Trutanich’s client, Joseph Zacher, pleaded no contest to illegal storage of hazardous waste, after initially facing five counts of illegal disposal, which threatened jail time and a fine of $500,000. Zacher avoided both, agreeing to clean up the site and report to a Los Angeles judge every 90 days.Four days later, on June 30, according to the secretary of state, Trutanich gave $5,600 to Delgadillo’s campaign for attorney general. (Trutanich also gave $1,000 to Delgadillo’s re-election campaign in 2004, according to the Ethics Commission.)The next day, on July 1, he became a special assistant city attorney, reporting to Delgadillo. While he won’t disclose his salary, he says he made “a lot less than in private practice,” while working on the deal to bring NFL football back to Los Angeles and a proposal for an investigative unit that would beef up the office’s prosecution capacity.Trutanich tendered his resignation on September 6 and returned to private practice on November 1, he said this week. The City Attorney’s Office says his resignation was effective September 30. Either way it was convenient for Maualuga, who was arrested on Halloween. “Did someone from UCLA call you?” Trutanich said when contacted by the Weekly. “If this is the best they got, they’ll be looking for help on December 3.”Trutanich cited Government Code Section 41805 as authority for him to move in and out of Delgadillo’s office like a turnstile on game day, defending criminal matters under the office’s jurisdiction at the beginning and end of his brief tenure. He says he had business cards printed but never got to use them. He offered praise for Delgadillo, Delgadillo chief of staff Ann D’Amato and assistant city attorneys in the criminal branch Maureen Siegal, Charles Goldenberg and Earl Thomas.Trutanich’s familiarity with Delgadillo’s top criminal attorneys overlaps with a lawsuit the city has been fighting for more than two years. The lawsuit, which Trutanich monitored, involves charges that Delgadillo used his authority to deter the City Council from ordering a special investigation of a discrimination and retaliation complaint by former Assistant City Attorney Lynn Magnandonovan. Goldenberg was a defendant in the case but has been dismissed, according to court records. Thomas is a key witness.The rub is: The City Attorney’s Office has declared a conflict of interest. Under conflict rules, the City Administrative Office must oversee the private firm handling the case.Yet Trutanich appeared for the City Attorney’s Office on four occasions and allegedly was seen participating in the defense of the case, which is being handled by Baker & Hostetler: July 18, at the deposition of Assistant City Attorney Zna Houston; July 22, at the deposition of Rocky Delgadillo, which the court has sealed; July 25, at the deposition of Siegal; and August 1, at a second deposition of Delgadillo.Sources at the depositions said that Trutanich was overheard on his cell phone in the hallway one day telling someone, “They ain’t got shit,” and that he periodically whispered what appeared to be instructions to attorney Larry Gartner of Baker & Hostetler. The City Council has set aside $1.5 million for lawyers’ fees. The city has been billed $1.08 million so far. When contacted, Gartner declined to comment. Kim Talley, a partner at the firm, later said that Trutanich was simply there to observe. Jonathan Diamond, a spokesman for Delgadillo, said, “There’s a big difference between monitoring and oversight.”Nooch says it was all in a day’s work. “Rocky asked me to monitor the lawsuit, to make sure the city is getting its bang for the buck,” he told the Weekly. “I was there as a representative for him and the city. I think I added value with my input. If you were involved in a lawsuit, wouldn’t you want to be able to communicate with your lawyer?”


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