At home with Ishmael Trone
Council candidate pursues those he believes tampered with estranged wife’s mail after DA confirms residency probe
Pasadena City Council District 3 candidate Ishmael Trone simply could not believe he was the target of a criminal inquiry into his residency.
On Friday, after a story about the probe appeared on the Pasadena Weekly Web site, Trone said he called the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. While he would not say with whom he spoke, he insisted that he was not under investigation for allegedly living in Altadena, outside the district, as reported by the newspaper.
However, during a visit to the East Orange Grove Boulevard apartment Trone says he’s been living in since splitting up with his wife, Juanita, three years ago, the candidate was quickly disabused of that contention. Meanwhile, Juanita Trone and the couple’s daughters, ages 16 and 20, still live in the Marengo Avenue home the couple purchased together in Altadena when they were still together. Anne Ingalls, head of the DA’s Public Integrity Division, who was contacted by phone by the Weekly and spoke directly with Trone in a three-way conference call, confirmed her office is looking into a complaint he lives outside District 3.
In California, it is a crime to for a candidate to run for office in a district in which they are ineligible to vote. Residency within the district is a requirement for eligibility.
“I can confirm that there has been a complaint regarding your residency,” Ingalls told Trone in the call. “I can’t discuss it with you any further, and I cannot tell you who filed the complaint.”
Claims that Trone — one of three candidates hoping to fill the council seat vacated by former Councilman Chris Holden after Holden was elected in November to the state Assembly — was back with his wife and living with her and their two daughters began surfacing after photos of mail addressed to Trone in Altadena appeared on the Web site of a private investigator who supports Trone’s main opponent, John J. Kennedy.
How the items of mail were acquired, photographed and posted at the blog “Detective Diaries,” operated by Torrance private investigator and journalist Jan B. Tucker, was not immediately known.
However, Trone believes Kennedy’s supporters are behind what he is characterizing as mail theft.
Kennedy, who did not return calls for comment on this story, has previously denied any knowledge of the letters.
“I am not responsible for it, and no, I am not aware of an investigation,” Kennedy said Friday. “My goal is to discuss the issues that are important to the residents of District 3, and that is what I have been doing by knocking on doors and talking to the residents about the real issues that impact their lives on a daily basis.”
Tucker neither confirmed nor denied that he was paid to dig up dirt on Trone. He also would not say how he acquired the mail appearing on his site. Tucker is loosely connected to Pasadena Board of Education member Ramon Miramontes, who calls Tucker “a well-known investigator,” and is himself a Kennedy supporter.
After verifying the complaint, Trone told the Weekly he was not worried.
“They can knock on the door anytime,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I am going back to the issues impacting the people in District 3. I won’t be distracted by this.”
Much as it is illegal for a candidate to run for office in a district he or she does not live in, it is a federal offense to tamper with mail, if Trone’s contention turns out to be true.
Miramontes denies having anything to do with Tucker’s investigation. However, in text messages to his friend and former District 1 council candidate Robin Salzer, Miramontes states “Ish is going to lose dude. The DA is going after Trone. There is an investigation on him running in the district.”
Although Miramontes declined to state whether he had sent the text messages, Salzer, owner of Robin’s Wood Fire BBQ, provided the Weekly with the messages.
According to the Cornell Law School Web site, mail theft is a federal offense that applies to not only the person who steals the mail, but anyone in possession of stolen mail. A conviction for mail theft can result in a five-year federal prison sentence.
Trone said he may seek legal representation in the matter. “I am collecting names [of people] who have heard directly from John Kennedy that I do not live in the district. These people will be willing to testify in court that he spread this lie. I will be contacting an attorney later this week,” he said.
On Monday morning, the Weekly visited Trone’s apartment at 83 E. Orange Grove Blvd., the address in question, to check on his residency.
Trone lives in a spacious one-bedroom apartment above Unyque Financial, the bail bonds business started by his mother, Madelyn, and stepfather Felix and now owned by Trone.
During the visit, the 52-year-old candidate showed utility bills dating back several months that were addressed to him at the apartment, not the business. The address and name on those bills correspond with bills dating back to 2009, which Trone provided to the Weekly in a Jan. 9 candidate interview. A cursory inspection of the property found clothing hanging in the apartment’s closets.
Meanwhile, Trone, who has Holden’s support in the race, said he plans to file a complaint with the Postmaster General’s Office and seek an investigation by the US Postal Service.
“The Kennedy campaign is trying to smear my name because of the strong track record I have of serving the community,” said Trone, former chairman of the Fair Oaks Project Area Committee and former vice-chair of the city’s Community Development Committee. The candidate also runs a summer internship program, served on the Rose Bowl Renovation Local Hiring Committee and has worked to renovate local parks.
“They understand the work that I have done for the constituency based in District 3 and the deep roots I have in this neighborhood. I am not just running for council based on what I will do in the future, but what I have done in the past and what I am currently doing. They know they will lose this race if they do not discredit me.”
Along with Kennedy, an executive with the Los Angeles Urban League, also in the race is the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson, senior pastor of the Summit Evangelical Free Church of Pasadena.
Joel Bryant, selected by the council to fill in for Holden until after the March 5 election, has not endorsed any of the candidates, but expressed his concern about the recent kerfuffle.
“The focus should be on the issues,” he said. “The biggest socioeconomic challenges are in the Northwest. The energy needs to be focused there, especially with the violence that has been occurring in the past few months. These candidates have to be focused on those issues.”