Colonies Corruption Case Defense Rests - Mountain News : Crime Log

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Colonies Corruption Case Defense Rests

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Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2017 9:43 am

Six months into the Colonies Partners corruption and bribery trial that began on Jan. 4, the prosecution rested its case on June 29. Then on July 17, the defense made a one-hour presentation before resting its case.

More than 10 years after former San Bernardino County supervisors approved a $102 million settlement in a civil suit brought by the Colonies Partners, the ensuing public corruption criminal proceedings are nearing an end. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Aug. 14.

The civil case that started it all was a dispute between developers and the county over land use, entitlement issues and flood control work at the Colonies Partners’ residential and commercial development in Upland.

After five years of civil litigation, three county supervisors approved a $102 million settlement, while two other supervisors opposed it. Afterward, a co-managing partner of Colonies, Jeff Burum, allegedly made $100,000 contributions to each of three political action committees purportedly controlled by the defendants.

A 29-count indictment was brought against five defendants, including Burum; former Second District Supervisor Paul Biane; former Sheriff’s Deputies Union president Jim Erwin; and Mark Kirk, who had been chief of staff for former supervisor Gary Ovitt.

Bill Postmus, who at that time was chairman of the board of supervisors and later served as county assessor, made a plea bargain with prosecutors in March 2011 and agreed to testify against the other defendants.

The four remaining defendants were charged with alleged conspiracy, extortion, bribery, misappropriation of public funds, failure to report income, reporting violations, fraud and perjury. Many of those charges were dismissed or narrowed down during five years of pre-trial motions, court decisions and appeals.

During the one-hour presentation on July 17, defense attorneys declared that the prosecution failed to prove its case during the six-month presentation of its probe. They also stated that defense attorneys made their side of the case clear during cross examination of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Finally, they argued that their cross examinations revealed facts that were not presented to the grand jury, that the charges should not have been brought against the defendants, and that they are not guilty.

The defendants have maintained that, in approving the $102 million settlement, they saved the county $198 million in an investigation that could have resulted in liabilities of $300 million.

They also said that the political action committees were legal entities, and contributions from Colonies partners were traceable and transparent.

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