10:41 PM PDT on Friday, August 20, 2010

By RICHARD K. De ATLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Discussions are under way that may end in pleas for at least some defendants in a perjury and campaign money laundering case that accuses six relatives of the defendants in a sweeping San Jacinto political corruption indictment.

The negotiations were disclosed in court Friday morning, when a preliminary hearing was scheduled but did not take place. At one point it appeared some pleas might be entered, but by afternoon attorneys said the talks would continue into next week.

“There are ongoing discussions on issues, but there has not been a resolution at this time as to three of the individuals,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael J. Cabral told Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly during the afternoon session.

Cabral said more time was needed.

Kelly set Aug. 27 for further proceedings, including a preliminary hearing for the defendants who do not resolve their cases.

Earlier, Kelly told the defendants that “the district attorney is willing, if you are willing, to reduce these charges to a misdemeanor on one count.”

Cabral intervened and asked the judge not to discuss details in open court.

The six defendants are related to San Jacinto City Councilman John Mansperger or San Jacinto Unified School District Trustee Nancy Ayres. Mansperger and Ayres are two of nine defendants charged last year in a 155-count indictment that names four San Jacinto council members.

Among them is San Jacinto City Council member Jim Ayres, the husband of Nancy Ayres. Another indictee who figures in the illegal campaign contribution matter is developer Stephen Holgate.

SEPARATE COMPLAINT

Friday’s hearing was based on a complaint that was filed separately after the indictment. The complaint and the indictment do not share any defendants.

The campaign money laundering complaint charges each defendant with conspiracy, perjury, making campaign contributions under a false name and making an unlawful contribution on another’s behalf. All have pleaded not guilty.

Four of the illegal campaign contribution defendants are related to Mansperger: his wife, Shanda Lynn Mansperger; his nephew Christopher Mason; and his sister and brother-in-law, Marcia and Kirk Mathews.

Defendants John Gehrum and Carol Gehrum are the brother and mother of Nancy Ayres.

Prosecutors said all the defendants made illegal contributions to Jim Ayres’ failed 2006 state Assembly campaign fund in November 2007, some 18 months after the political contest was over.

The six appeared before the 2009 grand jury, which handed up the indictment naming the nine corruption case defendants.

“Each defendant committed perjury … when they testified before the Grand Jury that they were the true source of the funds they contributed to Ayres for Assembly 2006 and that they each made contributions to that campaign without revealing the true source of the contribution,” said a prosecution summary prepared for the hearing.

District attorney investigator Kim Robinson used search warrants to look at the defendants’ bank statements in both criminal cases. Prosecutors concluded that money was funneled into the defendants’ accounts to illegally pay them for their contributions.

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