By Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
November 1, 2012
Printed version

The state 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside on Wednesday rejected a request by prosecutors to reinstate bribery charges against a Rancho Cucamonga developer that were dropped by a San Bernardino Superior Court judge last year.

Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum and three former county officials face felony charges in a sweeping San Bernardino County corruption case in which prosecutors allege the four engaged in bribery and conspiracy to influence a $102 million legal settlement between the county and Colonies Partners LP in November 2006.

Also charged in the case are former county supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

All four defendants deny any wrongdoing.

In its 41-page decision, the appellate court rejected an appeal by prosecutors to reinstate four bribery charges against Burum that Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville dismissed in August 2011. McCarville determined that people accused of giving bribes cannot also be charged with aiding and abetting the receipt of bribes.

Prosecutors argued in their appeal that the law contains no such exemption, that the facts should determine whether such charges are warranted.

The higher court did not support that argument.

In a statement Wednesday, Burum’s attorney Stephen Larson, said that although he appreciates the higher court’s decision to affirm McCarville’s dismissal of all bribery charges and a conflict-of-interest charge against his client, he said he looks forward to fighting the remaining two charges at trial.

“We look forward to exposing the miscarriage of justice that has been levied on Jeff Burum and his family,” Larson said. “As we have said numerous times, there was no bribe, and the charges against Jeff are an irresponsible and politically motivated attempt to trample on his First Amendment rights.”

Prosecutors also requested in their appeal that a charge of misappropriation of public funds against Biane, Kirk and Erwin that was dropped by McCarville be reinstated. The appellate court granted that request, saying McCarville erred when he dismissed those chrges.

Justice Art W. McKinster, who wrote the court’s opinion, also said McCarville erred when he refused to dismiss a conflict-of-interest charge against Erwin and Burum and two charges against Erwinalleging that he aided and abetted Biane in committing bribery.

Readers can follow the entire story in the Thursday print edition of The Sun.