Wednesday, February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Daily News

Carlos Vignali is a lucky man to have so many close, personal, influential friends in Los Angeles working on his behalf.

Mayoral candidates Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, and former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, along with Sheriff Lee Baca and even Cardinal Roger Mahony, all interceded on Vignali's behalf.

And they didn't even know him, only his father, Horace.

Their campaign to free or obtain favors for the convicted Encino drug trafficker raises serious questions about how business is conducted behind the scenes in Los Angeles for "influential" people who just happen to contribute thousands of dollars to politicians.

Carlos Vignali was convicted in 1994 for his role in a drug ring that delivered more than 800 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. After serving six years, his 15-year prison sentence was commuted by President Clinton on Jan. 20, his last day in office.

Becerra, Villaraigosa and Mahony wrote letters seeking to free Vignali, or at the least, have his sentence commuted.

Vignali's father and other family members donated at least $11,000 to Baca's campaigns since July 1994, $3,500 to Becerra and $2,795 to Villaraigosa.

A coincidence, no doubt.

It says a lot that many influential people were willing to plead the case of a man they never met.

It says a lot about how money talks and convicts walk in Los Angeles, how deals are cut for the advantage of the privileged without regard to the public.

It says a lot about how this town is really run with back-room deals. If only the walls could talk, the everyday corruption of our political processes would come to an end.
When confronted with the question as to whether he wrote a letter on behalf of Vignali, Villaraigosa's first impulsive response was to lie and deny it. Makes you wonder what other skeletons Villaraigosa has hidden in his closet. Also makes you wonder: if he lied then, why wouldn't he lie again? But when he was shown the letter with his signature on it, he fessed up and said that he did it out of of compassion. HUH!!!?

What more did Villaraigosa have to say about this?.

"I wrote that letter without talking to prosecutors on the other end," Villaraigosa said. "I shouldn't have done that. I went with my heart as a father, and not with my head."

The L.A. Times said the letter the former Assembly speaker wrote May 24, 1996, was addressed to the pardon secretary at the White House, and in it Villaraigosa stated that Vignali had been wrongly convicted.

Villaraigosa never met convict Vignali and thought he was innocent?

Give me a break!

Carlos Vignali
cocaine dealer