By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
April 19, 2006
Craig Marquardo refused to plead guilty to election fraud in Monday’s court hearing — but did recant his claim of being a Desert Storm veteran.
“I’ve prosecuted other election-based violations but I’ve never prosecuted one like this,” said O. Scott Jackson, senior assistant attorney general from the Oregon Department of Justice, following the April 17 hearing.
Jackson refused to accept Marquardo’s “no contest” plea to the charge leveled against him. That deal would have reduced the Hood River resident’s conviction from a Class C felony to a misdemeanor offense.
Circuit Court Judge Paul Crowley followed the state’s recommendation after taking testimony from both sides.
He sentenced Marquardo to five days in jail, 80 hours of community service, 36 months of probation and $857 in court fines and fees.
“I will accept the state’s position that you falsely stated your qualifications for the purpose of deceiving the voters,” said Crowley.
At issue was Marquardo’s claim to have worked as the senior vice president of distribution for Warner Bros. during the early 1990s. That job title was listed on his candidate filing form in February of 2005 when he ran unsuccessfully for Position 3 on the Hood River Port Commission.
“Mr. Marquardo would prefer pleading no contest as it is his contention that he did work for Warner Bros.,” said defense attorney Linda Gouge, of The Dalles.
She said because it had been more than a decade since Marquardo, 33, held the position at Warner, he no longer had documentation to prove his employment.
“What is important to him is the plea but not the sentence. So, I think he is adamant that he will not plead guilty,” said Gouge.
Jackson insisted that Marquardo had lied about any employment with Warner Bros. His case against the defendant was based on affidavits filed by two of the company’s top executives.
He presented statements to Crowley from Howard Welinsky and David Barry Reardon. Welinsky, senior vice president of administration — who oversees human resources — said, in his 32 years on the job, he had never heard of Marquardo. Reardon, who retired as president of film distribution in 1999, also insisted that Marquardo had never worked for Warner.
In a follow-up interview, Jackson said that Reardon had also denied writing the e-mail shown by Marquardo that allegedly praised his abilities on the job.
“I would be willing to accept punishment but I wouldn’t be able to lie about lying,” Marquardo told Crowley at Monday’s arraignment.
Jackson asked the judge to take several factors into consideration before deciding on Marquardo’s sentence.
He said the accused had been arrested in other states for embezzlement and robbery. And a background check on his military service gave no indication that he had left the United States during his one year with the Navy. In fact, Jackson said it appeared that Marquardo’s discharge after serving from 1991-92 had been related to mental health issues.
“This is a very interesting case in that Mr. Marquardo does not appear to be constrained by the truth,” said Jackson. “We certainly do believe he should be held accountable for his conduct and the integrity of the electoral system protected.”
Gouge reminded Crowley that Marquardo’s prior arrests had not resulted in convictions.
When questioned by the judge, Marquardo said he had been stationed on the U.S.S. Orion off the shore of Italy during his time in the military. However, he acknowledged that he had not been involved in the Persian Gulf War.
During the 2005 campaign, Marquardo claimed to have earned a Purple Heart after being shot twice and rupturing three disks in his back during a secret mission in Iraq. He said after receiving training as an Intelligence Specialist he was flown to the Middle East and escorted into the desert by a group of Navy SEALS to deliver a set of classified orders to a band of Marines.
After local war veterans challenged that tale, the National Personnel Records Center supplied data that disputed Marquardo’s claim to a Purple Heart. However, he accused the NPRC of “faulty record-keeping” and insisted that he had earned the merit award for battlefield injuries.
Marquardo declined to make any comment following Monday’s court action.
In prior media coverage, he has been questioned about a background that includes presidency of a movie company that never produced a film, experience as a backup singer for the artist Sting at the age of 15, playing professional baseball at the age of 17, and winning and losing his first million dollars by the age of 21. Marquardo has also claimed employment as an executive producer on nine major motion pictures, although his name is not listed on any of the credits.