Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/28/2010 06:40:46 PM PDT

Opening statements begin today in the second criminal trial of Rancho Cucamonga City Councilman Rex Gutierrez, accused of bilking taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars while working in the county assessor’s office.

Gutierrez, 50, is charged with three felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, grand theft and filing a fraudulent claim with the county. He is accused of submitting falsified time cards during his nearly two-year stint at the assessor’s office as its intergovernmental relations officer.

Prosecutors believe Gutierrez was hired by then Assessor Bill Postmus as a political favor to Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, and Gutierrez took the job with the intent of doing little to no assessor-related work and to carry out his duties as a Councilman.

Lawyers will be wrapping up jury selection this morning, and are expected to begin their opening statements this afternoon.

Prosecutor John Goritz said a jury of four men and eight women has been selected, but two alternates still need to be picked.

Gutierrez’s first trial ended in mistrial in June when the 11-woman, one-man jury couldn’t reach unanimous verdicts in any of the felony counts. Most jurors did not believe the prosecution’s key witness, former assistant assessor Adam Aleman, and while most jurors believe a conspiracy existed, they had a hard time connecting the dots, one juror said.

Prosecutors faced a setback during Gutierrez’s first trial when Judge Duke D. Rouse, at the request of defense attorney James Reiss, dropped one felony count of misappropriation of public funds.

Reiss argued that, based on prior case law, Gutierrez was not responsible for misappropriating public funds because it was ultimately Gutierrez’s supervisors who were signing off on his time cards and processing them through county payroll.

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