SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A Republican candidate for California attorney general said Friday that state lawmakers who are found guilty of crimes that endanger the lives of others should face the death penalty.
Phil Wyman, who spent 17 years in the state Legislature, said he was motivated by the case of Democratic Sen. Leland Yee. Yee faces federal charges that include an attempt to coordinate an international gun-running scheme from the Philippines.
Wyman also criticized Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris for being "silent as a mouse" on the corruption cases that have marred the state Senate this year. A campaign spokesman for Harris declined comment.
Wyman said in a news release and subsequent telephone interview that the "most egregious" abusers of their public office, if convicted, should be able to choose their method of death - public hanging, firing squad or lethal injection - as a deterrent to others.
"If they know that it's gun-running and they know it's going into a terrorist organization in the Philippines, that person earns the death penalty, and especially if they're in elected office," Wyman said in the interview.
Prosecutors would not have to prove that deaths occurred, he said; an officeholder promoting the potential for violence would be enough.
California law currently allows lethal injections for murders committed with aggravating circumstances, such as multiple slayings or murder-for-hire. Wyman would make an exception for corrupt politicians.
"Firing squad, at least that's a bit more macho than getting some other cocktail. Let that person choose. That person's been at the pinnacle of power. If he wants to be executed by firing squad, let him," he said in the interview. "I want to discourage and teach the new generation about values - that nobody is above the law."
Wyman served in the state Senate from 1993 to 1994 and in the Assembly from 1978 to 1992 and again from 2000 to 2002.
A spokesman for Yee did not return a telephone message. Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was at a loss about how to comment.
"How can you even respond to something that ludicrous?" he said.
The Senate last week suspended Yee and two other Democratic senators facing unrelated criminal charges. Steinberg has faced pressure to expel the senators from office, but he notes that two of the three have yet to be convicted of any crimes.
Under the state Constitution, they will continue being paid unless they leave office, something Wyman also criticized as "little more than slapping a person on the hands and letting them get further benefits."
Wyman said in his news release and interview that Harris has the power to remove corrupt officials, but he stopped short of saying she should act against Yee and the other two senators.
"She should investigate first of all what the problem is," he said, referring to the series of corruption charges.
"She should be right in the center of the arena," Wyman said, adding that, instead: "She's been silent as a mouse."
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.
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