Former Milkman’s Complaint Adds to DA Race Confusion
Saturday, November 4th, 1972
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 4 – A former milkman—appearing at a press conference sponsored by supporters of Dist. Atty. Joseph P. Busch—said Friday that Dep. Dist. Atty. Vincent T. Bugliosi misused the power of his office to harass him for “personal” reasons.
Bugliosi, running against Busch, admitted he had a district attorney’s investigator trace the ex-milkman, Herbert H. Weisel of Los Angeles, for a “personal matter” and that he contacted the man at his job. But he said the personal matter was that he suspected Weisel had stolen $300 from his home during the time he delivered milk there.
Weisel denied he stole any money. He said the “personal” matter was something else—but he refused to say what it was at the two-hour news conference.
At day’s end, neither side offered conclusive proof and it remained another confusing episode in the election campaign between Busch and Bugliosi for district attorney — one of the area’s most bitter political campaigns.
Weisel made his complaint to newsmen invited to the press conference by Maurice Harwick, a Beverly Hills attorney. Harwick is a member of a “truth squad” of attorneys backing Busch, but he said the press conference was not sponsored by the squad.
Weisel told his story under questioning from another attorney backing Busch, George Denny, and in a sworn affidavit distributed to newsmen.
“On March 13, 1069, I was informed by my wife that someone had called our house while I was at work asking for me saying he was a friend of mine and asking if I had worked for Arden Dairy,” Weisel said in an affidavit. He no longer works for the dairy.
He said the man refused to give his name. He said he called other times. “From what she told me,” Weisel said, “it appeared that he was trying to get written authorization from me to get my work records at Arden to satisfy himself about a personal matter which he discussed at length with my wife.”
He said at about the same time, he and his wife noticed “strange cars” driving around the block and parking across from the house. He had his phone number changed, he said, and then one day received a note saying “you shouldn’t have changed your phone number. That wasn’t nice.”
Weisel said he called a cousin and attorney, Bernard Echt, for advice. Finally, he said a man came to him at where he was working at the time, and demanded written permission to check his work records at Arden dairy.
Weisel said he refused. Finally, he said, he decided to try to trace the man – whose identity he insisted he did not know. Weisel said he lured him to his place of employment with a promise to give him the written permission he sought. The man showed up — and a friend of Weisel’s got the license number of the man’s car. Weisel said his attorney traced it. The attorneys sponsoring the press conference said they had evidence it was registered to Bugliosi.
The next day, Weisel said, a woman came to his house and Mrs. Weisel introduced her to him as “the wife of the man who had been harassing us.”
Mrs. Weisel, in another sworn affidavit, said the woman asked for permission for her husband to see the Arden dairy employment records. She also said:
“She became very pale when I said I would take the matter to the DA if this didn’t stop. She said she didn’t want this to become public.
“She did talk about the personal subject which had been mentioned on the phone by her husband. I asked her if her husband was seeing a psychiatrist. She said he wouldn’t go, but that she knew he was sick.”
Later, Weisel claimed, his attorney, Echt, called him to say that the man was in the office and would “pay us $100 to drop the whole matter.” Weisel said he refused.
Later in the year, he said, he was watching television news accounts of the Manson trial, saw Bugliosi, the prosecutor, on television and said it was “the guy who had been harassing us.”
“In June this year, after the primary election, my wife and I discussed the fact that Mr. Bugliosi had become one of the two runoff candidates for DA,” he said in the affidavit.
“Based on what had happened to us when he was only a deputy and not the actual DA, we were scared of what would happen if he got into office. I called the DA’s office and was put in touch with one of his assistants. We met and I told him what Mr. Bugliosi had done to me and my family. I didn’t know then and only found out this Wednesday, Nov. 1, that Mr. Bugliosi had apparently gotten my original unlisted phone number and my 1969 work address … by using official DA channels, calling me as a witness in one criminal case and a criminal suspect in another.”
Bugliosi told a different story in an interview.
“I had forgotten about the name of the milkman, but…the name kind of rings a bell,” he said. “I did have a milkman by that name several years ago. I think back in ’66-67. I forget when.
“And my only recollection is that we had about $300 taken from our house. It was in my office. And one day there was a little note left by the milkman to the effect that ‘I’ve looked all over the house and you have a very beautiful home.’ He had permission to put milk in the refrigerator but here was a note saying to the effect that ‘I’ve looked all over the house’.”
“Being the investigator I am, I started thinking maybe this guy took the $300,” Bugliosi said. “I didn’t have any evidence of it at all.”
“Around that time, he (the milkman) was apparently fired. I called the milk company. I asked why this guy was fired. They said something about…the official reason was that he couldn’t keep his books straight. Off the record, he was daily coming in with a shortage in cash. The implication was that the man was stealing. I said ‘well maybe if he’s stealing from the milk company, maybe he’s also stealing from me’.”
Bugliosi said he asked David F. Correa, a district attorney’s investigator, to find out where the than worked.
Bugliosi said he visited the man at his job, “told him $300 was missing.” The man denied taking it. Bugliosi said he went to see the man’s lawyer. He said the lawyer told him “I don’t believe he’s ever taken anything.”
Bugliosi said “that was the end of it.”
Weisel confirmed at the press conference that he had left Arden after “they informed me there was a shortage on the books.”
Weisel said he told the dairy “this was incorrect” and he insisted that the dairy could not show him any such shortage.
By BILL BOYARSKY and ROBERT A. JONES