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August 30, 2014

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Jon Ralston finds himself defending the hard-to-defend Lynette Boggs

Many years ago, after I had written some critical words about Lynette Boggs, she unleashed an e-mail to supporters about me that amounted to “Top Ten Reasons That Jon Ralston Is an Idiot.” Or words to that effect.

Boggs, who once obliquely threatened to throw her City Council colleague Larry Brown into the fires of hell, has a temper. She does not react well when challenged, and Boggs can be nasty, even vicious, when she thinks she has been wronged.

She had run-ins with many politicians and media folks, and I’d guess members of both professions don’t like her much. But that notwithstanding, her indictment on four charges related to her campaign finance reporting is beginning to look more and more like she really was wronged.

To most observers, the case looks open and shut who hasn’t seen the video of Boggs in that pink bathrobe in the driveway of a home not in her County Commission district? That video came after two unions police and Culinary set out to destroy Boggs’ career. It worked she lost her reelection but I doubt even those political opponents expected her to end up in a criminal trial scheduled to begin March 31.

District Judge Donald Mosley dropped two of the four charges against Boggs last week, saying she did not have “a willful desire” to mislead by listing her baby sitter as a campaign expense. The ruling had nothing to do with the legitimacy of using campaign funds to pay for a sitter that is questionable, but I bet I could find much more egregious examples of murky campaign expenses, and so could the government, if given the time.

But it’s clear that Boggs did not commit perjury or file a false document the charges Mosley dropped because she actually listed the baby sitter. If she were trying to hide that use of funds, she would have, well, hidden it.

Those charges were, as Boggs’ attorney, Gabriel Grasso, described them, “marginal” and Mosley clearly was correct in dismissing them. That leaves the two charges related to the pink bathrobe video, charges that Boggs perjured herself and filed a false document when she claimed to reside in her district when she ran for reelection two years ago.

Here, you would think, Boggs has a problem: Who are you going to believe her or your own eyes?

But it is not so simple. Yes, that videotape shows Boggs at a residence outside her district months after she filed for office. But is that relevant?

The allegedly false document is her filing-for-office affidavit submitted in May 2006, in which Boggs swore she had lived in her district for the previous 30 days. That video, though, was not taken in April it was shot four months later.

The question is how much hard evidence the government actually has that she was living outside her district during the only window, legally, that matters the month of April. There is witness testimony given to the grand jury that contradicts Boggs’ version of where she lived, although you can expect Grasso, who appears to be a methodical and aggressive advocate, to try to impeach those witnesses.

But he also is going to raise another issue in a motion to be filed before the March trial date arrives. In that motion, Grasso plans to argue that the Legislature never intended the specific statute for filing for office to be preempted by a criminal law on residency.

“This should not be a criminal prosecution,” Grasso argued on “Face to Face” this week. Grasso went on to insist that the law provides “no clear definition of residency for political purposes,” which indicates that Boggs is being treated differently from anyone else “for various reasons.”

“Without a doubt ... without a doubt in my mind,” Grasso responded when I asked him if Boggs is a victim of disparate treatment. And it’s not hard to see his point if you think Boggs is the only elected official to have a residence outside her district, you should be consigned to the gates of hell, or at least to a town without end.

“That (the baby sitter charges) was Round One,” Grasso declared on the program. “Those charges should never have been filed. Now it’s time for Round Two.”

It’s easy in the wake of G-Sting to assume a local official is corrupt, to believe the worst of Boggs, especially because she can be so combative, even nasty. But after all these years, after whatever mistakes Boggs may have made, this idiot thinks this time she has every right to be angry.

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