When he was sworn in more than six years ago, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley pledged to clean up public corruption. Since then, says the Los Angeles Times, he has prosecuted dozens of officials and political players, but he has been criticized for hitting mainly small targets, such as officeholders in poor cities, while failing to charge major figures in Los Angeles politics. With the new indictment of former Los Angeles City Commissioner Leland Wong on bribery, conflict-of-interest, and embezzlement charges, Cooley may have hooked a big fish, says the Times. In 2003, the Times reported that he had failed to pursue a lead that Wong had illegally pressured a vendor at Los Angeles International Airport to steer business to relatives of a lobbyist. Wong said he had done nothing illegal.
Public corruption cases can take a long time to build, Cooley said. It is wrong to mistake the lengthy process for inaction, he said. Cooley said his public integrity unit “had to start from scratch.” From 2001 to 2005, he filed 125 felony public integrity cases. Three of those were dismissed, 87 resulted in plea agreements and 11 went to jury trials. Ten of the 11 cases that went to trial resulted in convictions.