From left, Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt, developer Jeff Burum, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, and former supervisor Paul Biane, at an August court appearance.(STAN LIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

Published: 31 December 2011 05:39 PM

A panel of California appellate judges could soon be deciding how, and possibly if, the Colonies corruption case will proceed to trial.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside is considering an appeal filed by the San Bernardino County district attorney and state attorney general offices seeking to restore charges that were dismissed in August against Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, former Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

The court completed briefings from prosecutors and defense attorneys on the appeal last month and also agreed to consider writs of mandate filed by the defense seeking to have more charges dismissed against the four. A decision is expected in the next few months.

The defendants will be returning to San Bernardino County Superior Court on Jan. 6 for a status hearing but the main focus now is at the appellate level. Except for discovery issues, further proceedings in the case have been suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.

Prosecutors have argued that the lower court erred in dismissing five of the seven counts against Burum and one count each against Biane, Erwin and Kirk from the original 29-count indictment that a grand jury returned in May.

The defendants are accused of taking part in a scheme to net Burum’s company, Colonies Partners, a $102 million legal settlement. Prosecutors allege the deal, approved by the Board of Supervisors in November 2006, was a result of extortion and $400,000 in bribes by Burum and intermediaries acting on his behalf. The settlement ended a lengthy legal battle over flood-control improvements on a Colonies’ development in Upland.

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