10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, August 13, 2011

By IMRAN GHORI
Staff Writer ighori@pe.com

Attorneys for the four defendants in the Colonies bribery case are attempting to have many of the charges against their clients dismissed when they return to court Friday.

Former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, businessman Jeff Burum and Mark Kirk, the former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, are scheduled to be arraigned that day.

A criminal grand jury returned a 29-count indictment against them in May, charging them with multiple felonies and accusing them of taking part in a scheme to net Burum’s company, Colonies Partners, a $102 million settlement, which the Board of Supervisors approved in November 2006.

Prosecutors contend the deal was obtained through a conspiracy involving bribery and extortion. All four defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Their attorneys have filed motions, called demurrers, challenging the charges on several legal grounds. The defense attorneys accused prosecutors of overreaching and charging their clients with counts that should not apply to them, conspiracy in particular.

Burum’s attorney, Stephen Larson, calls the prosecution’s case fatally flawed in his demurrer and seeks to have the seven counts against Burum dismissed.

He stated that prosecutors knew that a statute of limitations prevented them from charging Burum with bribery, so instead they “creatively, but improperly” charged him with conspiracy to commit bribery and aiding and abetting in receipt of bribes.

Prosecutors allege that $400,000 in campaign contributions by Colonies Partners to five political action committees with ties to Biane, Kirk, Erwin and former Supervisor Bill Postmus were bribes provided in exchange for the three votes needed for the Colonies settlement.

Larson also states that some of the charges against Burum specifically apply to alleged misconduct by public officials and cannot be used against Burum.

Erwin’s attorney, Rajan Maline, joined in Burum’s demurrer and echoes the arguments. Erwin also faces charges of aiding and abetting with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

To read entire story, click here.