IT WAS A MERE LAPSE IN JUDGMENT on their parts to write letters in support of convicted cocaine dealer, Carlos Vignali, said Los Angeles mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa and Roger Cardinal Mahony. On Monday, February 12, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mahony, Villaraigosa and other prominent Southern California politicians had written letters to President Bill Clinton asking him to review Vignali's case. On his last day in office, Clinton commuted Vignali's 15-year federal prison sentence.In a written statement, reported in the Tuesday, February 13 Los Angeles Times, Cardinal Mahony stated, "I was approached about the possibility of writing a letter to former President Bill Clinton on behalf of Mr. Carlos Vignali Jr., the purpose of the letter was to seek a further review of the facts, the law and the processes used in his case. I made it clear that I was incapable of making a judgment about his guilt or innocence. Regardless of the merits of the case, I made a serious mistake in writing to the president and I broke my decades-long practice of never sending a letter on behalf of any person whom I did not know personally. I apologize for not following my own principles in this matter." The Times said Mahony's office would not return calls asking for clarification on who approached him asking him to write the letter in behalf of Vignali.It is unclear what made Mahony break his "decades-long practice" in the case of Vignali. Villaraigosa, however, has received $2,795 in political contributions from Vignali's father, Horatio. Villaraigosa denies that his intervention in Carlos Vignali's case had nothing to do with the contribution. "I was convinced at the time ... that his son was not a major player in this drug ring," Villaraigosa told Associated Press. "I made a mistake in not investigating." The elder Vignali has donated over $160,000 to Villaraigosa and other Southern California political figures since his son's incarceration six years ago, said the Times report. Horatio Vignali has donated $11,000 to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca's campaigns since July 1994; and $3,500 to United States Representative Xavier Becerra. Becerra, along with Representative Esteban Torres, wrote letters to Clinton asking for a reconsideration of Carlos Vignali's case. Sheriff Baca asked that Vignali be transferred to a California state prison.