December 3, 2010 | 3:06pm
Add "cheap" and "pitifully subservient" to the long, disgusting list of descriptions--rapist, habitual liar, dirty cop, drug addict--you can say about Bradley Stewart Wagner, the veteran Anaheim police officer who repeatedly used his badge in a sex-crimes scheme that targeted illegal-immigrant women working around Disneyland.
We have the new understanding of Wagner because Jennifer Keller, his onetime defense attorney, offered sensational testimony against him today in Superior Court Judge Walter P. Schwarm's Santa Ana courtroom.
According to Keller, Wagner kept lying and changing stories about his acts with various women he'd pulled over under false pretenses because, in large part, he was frightened of his wife's reactions.
"After all the years [as her client]--five years--he'd not been able to give me a straight answer," Keller testified, noting that his stories always changed when his wife was present. "[When Wagner agreed to plead guilty in exchange for favorable treatment, his wife] was crying, screaming, throwing herself to the linoleum, sobbing. . . . She was just more distraught than I'd ever seen any spouse [of a defendant] in my career."
Keller, one of Southern California's leading defense lawyers, also said Wagner had expressed more concern about losing his lucrative police pension and possibly having to pay his victims restitution for their medical expenses than going to prison, though he did express concern that he might be "toast" should he encounter an inmate he'd arrested.
Why would Keller publicly turn on her defendant?
Wagner now claims the guilty plea he entered last year should be legally void because Keller was professionally incompetent and, besides, he was high on drugs when he signed it in the courthouse. The claims--which, honestly, strain all sense of credibility--have repeatedly postponed sentencing in a case that has dragged on for half a decade.
Keller testified she spent "at least" 90 minutes "going over each line" in the plea agreement with Wagner and "never" noticed any signs that her client was mentally impaired. For example, she said, he did not slur his speech or ramble on unrelated topics. Indeed, according to Keller, he asked good questions and lobbied her to seek a better sweetheart deal. He was exposed to an 11.5-year prison sentence, but Keller had already managed to reduce it to just four years.
In response, Robert Z. Corrado, who has taken over as Wagner's defense counsel, asked Keller if she is a certified drug-recognition expert. But the smart-ass line fell flat when Keller noted she'd spent eight years as a public defender and had first-hand experience with drugged clients.
Wagner is asking Schwarm for permission to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial. A decision is expected on Dec. 16.
But Keller made it clear Wagner's chances of winning over a jury are zero.
While working on his defense, Keller testified, she once asked him, "How much more are you going to lie?"
Regarding one of the victims that Wagner targeted in the middle of the night, Keller said, she advised the cop that jurors would not accept his "highly unlikely" story that a woman had ended a 12-hour shift in the wee hours of the night and "then tried to strike up a romance" with him.
The evidence possessed by prosecutor Lynda Fernandez was so substantial, Keller noted, that she eventually concluded it was not "humanly possible" for a future jury to accept stories Wagner planned to concoct on the witness stand.
According to Keller--who is law partners with Kay Rackauckas, ex-wife of DA Tony Rackauckas--jurors were more likely to find an illegal immigrant more credible and believable because they would find him to be "a creepy cop."
's the original Weekly
article on Wagner's change of plea strategy.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly