By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 07/26/14, 8:38 PM PDT | Updated: 1 min ago

Last week was rough for prosecutors in San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case as a judge dealt a major blow to their case by dismissing the key conspiracy charge against all four defendants.

The coming week could be much worse if San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith decides Monday to dismiss another dozen charges on grounds they were time-barred by the statute of limitations.

Five dismissal motions are being heard by Smith. The motions hearing is the first major development in the criminal case after a more than two-year delay due to appeals by prosecutors that went all the way to the California Supreme Court.

The motions seek dismissal on grounds that most of the charges are time-barred by the statute of limitations, and also allege prosecutors engaged in misconduct and manipulated the grand jury and that prosecutors had insufficient evidence to indict.

During the first two days of the hearing on Wednesday and Thursday, Smith was inclined to side with defense attorneys, dismissing the conspiracy charge, which includes 43 overt acts comprising the prosecution’s over-arching bribery case.

Smith has tentatively dismissed an additional 12 charges that include all bribery counts against the defendants, but he deferred a final ruling to allow attorneys to argue whether prosecutors should be able to amend the indictment to show that prosecutors were not precluded from filing charges because the statute of limitations had lapsed and that evidence to warrant a criminal investigation did not surface until Nov. 1, 2008.

Smith will decide Monday if he will dismiss the additional 12 charges or let prosecutors amend the indictment.

If he dismisses the additional 12 charges, it would end the case against Rancho Cucamonga home builder and key defendant Jeff Burum, but leave former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, on the hook for charges of forgery, filing false tax returns and perjury.

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