Lawyer Accused of Illegal Campaign Gifts to L.A. Mayor Race

A prominent lawyer allegedly made illegal contributions to the election campaign of Mayor James K. Hahn (search) by arranging maximum donations from, and then reimbursing, law firm employees and others, authorities said Tuesday.

Pierce O'Donnell (search), whose clients have included MGM and Pfizer Inc., was charged with 26 misdemeanor counts of improperly identifying campaign donors. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from probation to 13 years in prison, prosecutors said. Arraignment was set for June 17.

Prosecutors made no allegations against Hahn or his campaign. Hahn denied knowledge of the allegedly illegal donations.

"I did everything I could as a candidate to make sure that people were making those donations from their own personal funds," Hahn said. "There is no way of me knowing if some other cause was behind that."

Seven other people were also charged, including O'Donnell's personal secretary, his personal trainer and an attorney who worked as a paralegal at O'Donnell's firm.

Under city and state campaign laws, donors can contribute no more than $1,000 to one candidate per election. At least 21 people linked to O'Donnell's firm made contributions of $1,000 in 2000 and 2001, records show.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission and the Los Angeles Ethics Commission were also investigating.

In a statement, O'Donnell, 57, said he and his law firm were "disappointed that the district attorney's office has chosen to charge technical violations of the California Government Code as misdemeanor offenses." Ordinarily, he said, such cases are handled through civil or administrative proceedings.

O'Donnell has cooperated with authorities, the statement said.