Most politicians would keep their distance from a man like Mario Beltran. After pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds, the former Bell Gardens City Councilman was banned from public office for four years and sentenced to probation in connection with the criminal case. Beltran has also been found guilty of filing a fake police report in a separate case. Despite his criminal troubles, the 36-year-old Beltran has found continued support among some elected leaders, including State Senator Ronald Calderon, who hired Beltran as his spokesman as the state senator has been caught up in a political corruption investigation, reports the L.A. Times. Another Beltran fan is newly elected First District Councilman Gil Cedillo.
Cedillo, who once employed Beltran, said his former employee should not have been banned from political office. Cedillo also defended Beltran in the case in which he was convicted of filing a false police report claiming he had been mugged downtown by a man who stole his wallet and Bell Gardens City Council identification badge. But a woman testified that she turned in the wallet and badge to police after Beltran had groped her in a hotel hallway and others came to her assistance.
Cedillo, in an interview with the Times, said Beltran was the real victim and should not have been banned from public office:
“That badge case was a farce. It was a travesty of justice. You had a young man who was innocent. He was a model citizen, elected to local government,” Cedillo added. “He did something that most 27-year-olds do at one time — he drank too much alcohol. From that he was mugged, he was rolled. He was the victim.”
The 36-year-old Beltran told The Times that he has “matured a lot from that experience” and that his “respect and appreciation for government” has “always been very high.”