Ralph Inzunza Denied Final Appeal on Corruption Charges

Inzunza and two other San Diego City Councilmen Michael Zucchet, and Charles Lewis were indicted alongside strip club owner Michael Galardi and Galardi's lobbyist Lance Malone

By R. Stickney and Danya Bacchus
|  Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012  |  Updated 7:36 AM PDT
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He's been out on bond for six years but now former San Diego Councilman Ralph Inzunza will go to prison. Danya Bacchus reports.

He's been out on bond for six years but now former San Diego Councilman Ralph Inzunza will go to prison. Danya Bacchus reports.

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After years of appealing his 2005 conviction, former San Diego City Councilman Ralph Inzunza will go to prison for political corruption.

Inzunza was convicted of taking bribes in exchange for help in repealing the “no-touch” ordinance at strip clubs.

After the verdict, Inzunza vowed to fight to reverse the conviction.

For six years, he filed appeal after appeal until Friday when his final appeal was denied.

Now, the former city leader faces a 21-month prison sentence.

Political analyst John Dadian says Ralph Inzunza was once considered an up-and-coming leader in San Diego until his political future changed in 2003.

Inzunza and two other San Diego City Councilmen Michael Zucchet, and Charles Lewis were indicted alongside strip club owner Michael Galardi and Galardi's lobbyist Lance Malone.

Galardi was the owner of Cheetah’s, one of a dozen strip clubs and topless bars in his family’s $45 million adult entertainment empire.

Galardi sent Malone to San Diego with cash and campaign donations to get council members to repeal the city’s “no touch” law. Their efforts were caught on tape by the FBI.

A federal jury found Inzunza guilty of taking bribes in exchange for his help repealing the "no-touch" ordinance. 

Former San Diego City Councilman Michael Zucchet was also convicted on nine charges for accepting campaign contributions in exchange for repealing the “no-touch” law. 

In 2005, a federal judge threw out seven of those convictions and granted a new trial on one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Those two charges were eventually dropped. 

City Councilman Charles Lewis died suddenly in August 2004 at the age of 37. The medical examiner determined Lewis' death was from a gastro-intestinal hemorrhage. The coroner's report said Lewis suffered from alcoholic hepatitis and showed a blood-alcohol level of .03 along with traces of Ibuprofen in the councilman's blood sample taken before he died.

Malone was sentenced to three years in prison and dropped his appeal in a plea deal that combined sentences for the California case and a parallel case in Las Vegas.

Galardi served 18 months for fraud and racketeering, a year less than his original sentence. He was awarded early release in 2009 because of his participation in an alcohol treatment program.

At his 2007 sentencing, Galardi apologized to San Diegans for the shame he brought the city.

Inzunza's conviction will be upheld but it's not known when he will begin his sentence.

“Twenty-one months in prison is pretty severe for what he did,” said Dadian. “It was a non-violent crime but it was a betrayal of the public trust.”

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