Colonies Courtroom - 110212

Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors appear before Superior Court Judge Michael Smith during a hearing in 2012, in the Colonies case. (File Photo/The Sun)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 12/28/13, 5:30 PM PST |

Defense attorneys said Friday they will push to get San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case back to trial court so they can present additional evidence they say will help prove their clients’ innocence.

The state Supreme Court ruled on Monday, Dec. 23 that the 4th District Court of Appeals in Riverside erred when it affirmed San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville’s August 2011 dismissal of bribery charges against Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum and former San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin. The high court remanded the matter back to the appellate court for further review.

But defense attorneys Stephen Larson and Rajan Maline, who represent Burum and Erwin, respectively, do not want the case tied up in the appellate courts any longer. They want the case back in trial court so they can move forward with new motions.

Larson said Friday he would be filing a request with the Supreme Court, as a formality, to remand the case back to the 4th District Court of Appeals. He then plans to formally ask the appellate court to return the case to San Bernardino Superior Court for further motion hearings.

“We think there’s a more expanded record that needs to be presented to the appellate court and the trial court,” Larson said.

Maline said it’s been more than two years since McCarville’s ruling on the demurrers that challenged the prosecution’s legal grounds to charge the defendants. Furthermore, it has been more than a year since the appellate court issued its decision and more than a year for the Supreme Court to agree to hear the case and issue its ruling, Maline said.

He said the case needs to move forward.

“These are guys whose lives are hanging in the balance,” Maline said of his client and the other defendants in the case. “We have to move forward. We want to go to trial.”

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, whose office has partnered with the state Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting the case, declined to comment, citing the pending appellate proceedings.

A grand jury indicted Burum, Erwin, former county Supervisor Paul Biane and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for county Supervisor Gary Ovitt, in May 2011. Each was charged with multiple felonies, including conspiracy to commit a crime, bribery and tax evasion.

Prosecutors alleged Burum conspired with the other defendants in 2005 and 2006 to influence a $102 million legal settlement between the county and Burum’s investor group, Colonies Partners LP, to end a long-standing lawsuit.

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