Prosecutors talk to Judge Michael Smith during a pretrial hearing on the Colonies case Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court, in San Bernardino. (Lafonzo Carter/Staff Photographer)
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/02/2012 12:21:25 PM PDT
A law enforcement labor union’s political mailer featuring the mugshot of Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, a defendant in a sweeping county corruption scandal, could taint the jury pool, Burum’s attorney told a San Bernardino Superior Court judge on Friday.
The San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, or SEBA, distributed the mailer last month, encouraging voters to vote yes on Measure R, which proposes to slash pay and benefits for county supervisors to $60,000 a year.
The flier features the mugshots of Burum, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt.
It also features an inset photo of a wanted flier for former Supervisor Paul Biane, a defendant in the corruption case who authorities said failed to promptly surrender on the day he was indicted as he agreed to do.
The photos appeared along with the word “INDICTED” appearing above them.
Burum’s attorney, Stephen Larson, told Judge Michael A. Smith that the flier had been sent to potential members of the jury pool and could hinder his client’s shot at a fair trial.
Smith said his hands were tied.
“I don’t think I have any jurisdiction to tell SEBA what it can and can’t do,” Smith told Larson.
Larson said he has subpoenaed documents from the labor union trying to find out who’s behind the mailer, and if investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, which the union represents, had anything to do it.
“It’s one thing to use a convicted defendant’s (photograph) in a flier like this, but these individuals, as a D.A. should know, are innocent until proven guilty,” Larson said.
Reached by telephone Friday, SEBA President Laren Leichliter said the District Attorney’s Office had no input on the flier and that he and his political consultant, David Ellis, were solely responsible for its contents
“What he’s (Larson) trying to insinuate with the D.A.’s investigators is false. They had nothing to do with it,” Leichliter said.
Ellis, who is also District Attorney Michael A. Ramos’ political consultant, said Friday he and Leichliter took the proper safeguards when crafting the flier.
“We were very careful the way we worded the flier, and SEBA’s counsel approved it,” Ellis said.
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