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Former judge pleads guilty to bribery

SAN DIEGO, March 12 -- A former state superior court judge has pleaded guilty to accepting $75,000 from an attorney in exchange for providing favorable treatment and assistance in the lawyer's cases, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California said Tuesday. In a plea bargain, former Judge Michael I. Greer, 61, admitted he corruptly accepted the money from attorney Patrick R. Frega and helped him in more than 40 cases worth millions of dollars, said U.S. Attorney Alan D. Bersin said. Greer, who was appointed to the state's superior court for San Diego County in 1977 and retired in 1993, admitted a wide range of illegal activity that violated the integrity of the judicial system, Bersin said. The former judge admitted to receiving payments and gifts for using his influence and authority to assist in civil cases for Frega, who was once named trial attorney of the year by his San Diego peers. Greer, in a statement before the federal court, further said he believes two other former judges -- James Malkus and G. Dennis Adams -- also received bribes from Frega. 'This is an agonizing day for the individuals involved and for our community that honored and trusted them and which they so thoroughly betrayed,' said Bersin, who led the investigation. '...Corruption threatens these core values, but today's proceeding underlines once again that no one stands above the law,' he said. The guilty plea was made in U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie's Los Angeles court.

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All 11 federal San Diego judges know Greer so they disqualified themselves from hearing the case. Greer's illegal activity taints certain court proceedings, said FBI special agent Robert Walsh. Greer served as Assistant Presiding Judge and Presiding Judge of the San Diego County Superior Court from 1987 to 1989. During this time, he assigned pending cases to specific superior court judges for motion hearings, settlement conferences and trials. He decided contested motions for Frega's firm, resolved discovery disputes, consolidated cases for discovery or trial, assigned cases to judges requested by Frega and discussed legal issues with the attorney before hearing some of these same issues in court, Walsh said. Greer retired after an investigation began into his activities by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. Bersin said Greer's plea marks a part of an ongoing investigation. The former judge could face up to 10 years in prison. However, prosecutors said they will recommend he only be sentenced to probation. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16. In other news, the state Commission on Judicial Performance said a Bakersfield, Calif., judge has resigned during a disciplinary investigation. Kern County Municipal Judge Alan E. Klein, 47, who was acquitted last year of bribing a stripper facing charges in his court, resigned, saying he would refrain from seeking or accepting other judicial offices, the commission said. Klein, who was appointed to the bench in 1981, faces noncriminal misconduct charges involving a dancer who was charged with public nudity and lewd conduct. The dancer, La Shay Munoz, 19, told authorities that Klein invited her into his chambers on a Sunday and reportedly said, 'Why don't you dance for me?' Munoz said she refused to dance for the judge.

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