09:49 PM PDT on Friday, June 10, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge delayed the arraignment of four defendants in a bribery and corruption scandal Friday while agreeing to seal grand jury transcripts for three weeks.

Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, former Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, the county’s director of governmental affairs, will return to court July 1 for a possible arraignment and a hearing on whether the transcripts should be made public.

Defense attorneys sought the delay to give them time to review the documents, which Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope handed to each of them in a cardboard box Friday.

The transcripts are of the four-week grand jury proceedings that led to a 29-count indictment May 10 against the four defendants charging them with multiple felonies including bribery and conspiracy. They are accused of taking part in a scheme to net Burum’s company a $102 million settlement, which the Board of Supervisors approved in November 2006 following a four-year legal battle.

Attorneys for the four suspects have denied the charges.

Under state law, grand jury transcripts become public documents 10 days after they are provided to the defense, although judges have discretion to seal them in some cases.

State Assistant Attorney General Melissa Mandel, whose office is working with the district attorney, argued against any delay in releasing the transcripts. She said the public has a right to know in the case, especially because the allegations concern government corruption.

She said Burum and Erwin have already commented extensively about the case in the media.

“They cannot credibly claim that pretrial publicity will prejudice their right to a fair trial when they have generated, created and invited that type of publicity for a long period of time,” Mandel said.

Burum’s attorney, Mary Andrues, said prosecutors also have sought publicity with two news conferences where they described the case as one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state and featured a wanted poster of Biane.

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