10:00 PM PDT on Friday, April 22, 2011

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

The San Bernardino County district attorney’s office is seeking to delay a preliminary hearing that would determine if Jim Erwin, former assistant assessor, should stand trial on corruption charges.

The hearing was scheduled to begin Monday, but on Friday, Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope informed Superior Court Judge Duke Rouse that prosecutors are seeking a continuance.

Rouse said he would hear from attorneys and make a determination Monday.

Cope said his office is asking for the delay because prosecutors are “engaged in another proceeding and we have a witness who is unavailable.” He declined to say how long a delay they are seeking.

He also declined to elaborate on the other proceeding or name the witness, except to say that it is a civilian and not an investigator.

Rajan Maline, Erwin’s attorney, could not be reached for comment after the hearing. He had previously said that his client was eager to go forward with the preliminary hearing in which they hoped to subpoena several county officials, including District Attorney Mike Ramos.

Prosecutors recently convened a criminal grand jury in which several current and former county officials were subpoenaed to testify over the last few weeks. Cope said he could not confirm or comment on the activities of the grand jury.

The subpoenas were sent out just days after former Assessor and Supervisor Bill Postmus pleaded guilty to 14 felonies, including using his office as assessor for personal gain and accepting a bribe in a $102 million lawsuit settlement. As part of the deal, Postmus has agreed to testify on behalf of prosecutors although it is not known if he will do so against Erwin.

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