12:12 AM PDT on Saturday, October 30, 2010

By RICHARD K. DE ATLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Special Section: San Bernardino Co. Probe

A San Bernardino County district attorney’s investigator on Friday denied that his office told witnesses to withhold statements from a grand jury investigating former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus.

Postmus’s attorney Stephen Levine got the question in over objections from county prosecutor Lewis Cope during a morning of testimony at the preliminary hearing of former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus.

The session was interrupted by legal arguments over a grand jury testimony issue and whether to take an out-of-order witness in the case.

“We are now on day three of a one-day (preliminary hearing),” San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael Smith commented. Smith indicated that the hearing would last into early next week.

Levine told the judge he wanted to determine whether witnesses who had voluntarily talked to the district attorney’s investigators in the Postmus matter were ordered “not to tell the grand jury what they were telling the district attorney.”

Senior District Attorney Investigator Hollis “Bud’ Randles denied that his office had given such orders.

It was Randles’ second day on the witness stand, picking up from where he left off on Oct. 15, the last previous day of testimony.

The preliminary hearing will determine whether Postmus, 39, and Greg Eyler, 34, should face trial on corruption charges.

Postmus is charged with four counts of misappropriation of public funds, one count of perjury, two counts of grand theft, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one misdemeanor count of possessing drug paraphernalia for unlawful use.

Eyler, a former taxpayer’s advocate in the assessor’s office, is charged with one count of grand theft and one count of misappropriation of public funds.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Some of the Friday morning hearing was taken up with the issue of introducing grand jury testimony by a longtime Postmus friend, John Dino Defazio.

Levine explained outside of court that he wanted to question whether a $12,000 cashier’s check recovered by investigators was meant for his client or Postmus’s father, whose middle name differs from his son’s.

“They are making the allegation William J. Postmus did not report this check. Well, why would he report it when it is not his check, it’s William K. Postmus’ check, given to him by Dino Defazio to give to his dad.”

Smith told Levine under rules governing admission of grand jury testimony, he would have to formally seek approval from San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Douglas Elwell. Smith suggested that Elwell would move quickly on the request.

Defazio has said the $12,000 check did not come from him or his company. “I’ve never written Bill a check, ever,” he said

Defazio, an Apple Valley business partner of Postmus, is also among those facing separate charges in the wide-reaching county corruption investigation. Defazio is accused of lying about his financial ties to Postmus to a grand jury.

On Wednesday, jurors found Rancho Cucamonga Councilman Rex Gutierrez guilty of defrauding taxpayers in his former position at the assessor’s office, the first conviction in the three-year corruption probe.

Gutierrez resigned his council seat after the verdict. He will be sentenced Dec. 15. Witnesses testified that Postmus gave Gutierrez the job as intergovernmental relations officer in March 2007 at the request of influential developer Jeff Burum, whose projects Gutierrez supported on the City Council.

In a separate case, Postmus and Jim Erwin, a former assistant assessor, are accused of conspiring through bribery and extortion to gain the county’s approval of a $102 million lawsuit settlement with Colonies Partners.

Burum is co-managing partner of Colonies Partners. The criminal complaint naming Postmus and Erwin listed five unindicted co-conspirators.

Burum, his business partner Dan Richards, media consultant Patrick O’Reilly, Supervisor Paul Biane and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt, appear to be those John Does based on public records and statements.

None of them have been charged.

Burum also is central to additional charges against Erwin of failing to report gifts he received from the developer in January 2007, including a Rolex watch and trip to New York, following the Colonies settlement.

Reach Richard K. De Atley at 951-358-9573 or rdeatley@PE.com