The California Court of Appeal on June 20 rejected a former Orange County Democratic Party boss’s appeal of a 2014 extortion conviction involving a sexual affair with the wife of a wealthy Republican campaign contributor of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
An appellate panel comprised of justices Richard Aronson, Kathleen O’Leary and Eileen Moore declared they are required to view the case in the most favorable light to the prosecution and concluded Irvine-based attorney James Toledano conspired with a client, Michael Roberts, to extort $350,000 from Richard “Dick” Marconi, who owns the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin.
A personal trainer who lived on the Marconi’s expansive San Juan Capistrano estate, Roberts claimed he’d repeatedly had sex with Bo Marconi, Dick’s wife, and ended up fired from a job for the couple to cover up the affair.
Roberts also insisted he became the victim of a Marconi whisper campaign to discredit him as a lucrative supplier of high-end exotic plant sales to rich Southern California clients.
To seek a pre-lawsuit settlement for his business losses, Roberts hired Toledano but Marconi got Rackauckas, who is known for favoring contributors, and the Newport Beach Police Department to treat the case as a criminal extortion attempt.
The prosecution’s chief witness against Toledano was Paul Roper, Marconi’s personal attorney.
To bolster the extortion claim, Roper assured an Orange County Grand Jury that lawyers always file lawsuits before seeking out of court settlements, a laughable assertion to anyone who follows civil judicial proceedings, but one adopted by Rackauackas’ office as a statement of fact.
But in the 1980s, Roper secured a pre-lawsuit settlement of $265,00 for Jessica Hahn, who alleged that Jim Bakker of Praise the Lord (PLT) broadcasting infamy used his position as her boss to secure sexual favors.
Nonetheless, the state appellate panel opined that there was “substantial circumstantial evidence” Toledano “had the specific intent to enter into a conspiracy with Roberts to extort” the Marconi couple.
The opinion omitted the ultra-wealthy couple’s identity.
In 2015, a post-conviction judge ordered Toledano, whose father (Ralph) was a famous pro-Richard Nixon journalist, to serve nine months in jail and three years of supervised probation.
That same year, the attorney lost his law license.
In 1996, when he served as chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, Toledano got caught playing illegal shenanigans with a $10,000 campaign contribution to the organization, an incident he’s always maintained was an innocent misunderstanding.