Then, the prosecutor loaded a question with damning assertion against Toledano: that he'd mentioned The Orange County Register would learn of the affair rumor. A malleable Roper replied, "I would go with that. . . ."
But the police report of the Roper interview doesn't mention anything about threats to go to the media or file perjury charges. In essence, the report states a non-crime: According to Roper, Toledano said he wouldn't file a lawsuit for damages if the Marconis settled the matter.
The case against Toledano and Roberts further collapses when you consider their indictments hinged on Roper's laughably erroneous assurances to the grand jury that civil lawyers "in almost every case" file a lawsuit, and then begin negotiations. Roper testified that Toledano proved his criminal intentions by trying to negotiate a settlement prior to going to court. His legal opponent had "simply" been trying to sell Roberts' silence about the affair as a "way to extract money." Roper called such tactics "just a shakedown."
He should know.
Stay with me here: Three decades ago, preachers Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were prominent televangelists with the Praise the Lord (PTL) network. The Bakkers' empire collapsed after revelations that Jim had a sexual escapade with a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, and that PTL had paid, according to The New York Times, "hush money" to keep her silent about the tryst.
What does that have to do with the present extortion case? Without filing a lawsuit, the man who approached PTL to secretly negotiate Hahn's silence in exchange for $265,000 was Paul Roper.
The deafening sound you just heard was the collapse of Roper's credibility—and Olivieri's case.
This column appeared in print as "Free Jim Toledano and Michael Roberts Now: Looks like the government's star witness in a wild Newport Beach extortion case has a credibility problem to go along with his conflict of interest."