Stephen Larson

Defense attorney Stephen Larson (far right) speaks with the defense team Thursday morning in San Bernardino Superior Court during a motion hearing in the Colonies corruption case. (Will Lester — staff photographer)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 07/24/14, 11:47 AM PDT | Updated: 1 hr ago

SAN BERNARDINO >> A judge on Thursday indicated he was poised to dismiss another dozen felony charges against the defendants in the Colonies corruption case but gave attorneys a chance to argue whether the prosecution should or should not be allowed to amend the indictment.

After hearing arguments from both sides throughout the morning and into mid-afternoon, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith said he needed time to make a “reasoned and organized” decision and recessed until 10:30 a.m. Monday.

It was the second day of a motion hearing in the case.

On Wednesday, Smith dismissed a key charge of conspiracy against all four defendants, a major blow to the prosecution because that charge included 43 overt acts that constituted the bulk of evidence in the prosecution’s bribery case.

Smith concurred with defense attorneys that the conspiracy charge was time-barred by a 3-year statute of limitations that began at the time the crimes were allegedly committed.

Defense attorney Stephen Larson, representing Rancho Cucamonga developer and key defendant Jeff Burum in the case, filed four motions in January seeking dismissal of the case on grounds of statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, improper grand jury instruction and prosecutor misconduct. In June, he filed another motion alleging prosecutor misconduct. All five motions are being heard by Smith.

Smith is considering dismissing another 12 charges — counts 2-13 in the indictment — which he believes are also time-barred. Those charges include bribery, misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. If the charges are dismissed, it would end the case against Burum.

But if Smith allows prosecutors to amend the indictment so it more clearly addresses the timeline in which the crimes occurred and when the victim — the county — and authorities became aware of the alleged crimes, it could salvage the prosecution’s case against Burum.

Larson and prosecutors declined to comment Thursday.

State and local prosecutors allege Burum conspired with three former county officials — former Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt — to facilitate a landmark $102 million legal settlement between the county and Burum’s investor group, Colonies Partners LP, in November 2006.

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