The Riggs Report: CA Senate scandal quietly expires

Plea bargain by former Sen. Ron Calderon means no corruption trial

Just like that, the potential for a sensational court case detailing steamy dealings at the state Capitol is over.

Former state Sen. Ron Calderon’s decision to plead guilty to mail fraud Monday means there will be no trial on the 24-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in 2014, which included bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

Calderon’s plea bargain spares the Capitol from an extended colorful trial that would likely have included testimony from lawmakers past and present.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, who testified before the grand jury, was considered a likely witness.

Former Sen. Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento’s mayor-elect, was another potential witness since he was presiding over the Senate at the time of Calderon’s indictment.

“Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement at the time of the indictment. “Senator Calderon is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and using the powers of his elected office to enrich himself and his brother, Tom, rather than for the benefit of the public he was sworn to serve.”

Calderon would have faced maximum of 396 years in federal prison if he were to have been convicted of all charges. The plea bargain means that he could face a sentence of just under six years instead.

Calderon’s brother Tom, a former Assembly member, entered his own plea last week to money laundering in a separate criminal case.

The Calderons were part of a political dynasty at the Capitol that included a third brother, Charles, who served in the Legislature and once ran for attorney general, and Charles’ son, Ian, who is a current member of the Assembly.

Ron Calderon’s guilty plea involved allegations that he received bribes in exchange for pushing a tax break that would have benefited small film producers. That scheme resulted from the work of undercover FBI agents who posed as producers.

Ron Calderon also arranged jobs for his daughter and son in exchange for bribes and was captured on tape telling an undercover agent, “Any help you could do for my kids is, you know, that’s diamonds for me. That’s diamonds,” according to a transcript released by authorities.

Ron Calderon’s indictment was part of a dark period for the Senate in 2014.

That same year, former Sen. Leland Yee was indicted on corruption charges involving gun smuggling and racketeering, and former Sen. Rod Wright was convicted on perjury and voter fraud charges related to listing a false address.