Scales of Justice

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 07/29/14, 8:30 PM PDT |

Prosecutors in San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case are requesting in a court motion that a former federal prosecutor now working for the law firm representing key defendant Jeff Burum be barred from working on Burum’s defense.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Behnke was the lead prosecutor in a now shuttered federal investigation into the November 2006 settlement between the county and Burum’s investor group, Colonies Partners LP. Behnke oversaw searches at Burum’s business and home in Rancho Cucamonga in September 2011 and was a member of the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force, according to the motion filed by Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel on July 14.

Behnke was hired by the Los Angeles law firm Arent Fox LLP in May, under attorney Stephen Larson’s supervision. Larson is Burum’s attorney and a former federal judge.

Behnke’s hiring was never disclosed to prosecutors, nor was it ever communicated to prosecutors that Arent Fox insulated Behnke from the Colonies case, Mandel said in her motion.

“Hiring a former federal prosecutor whose position on a state/federal task force allowed him to receive protected confidential information from state prosecutors about this case, and who led the prosecution during federal search warrants which are at issue in this case, threatens to undermine public trust in the scrupulous administration of justice and the integrity of the bar,” Mandel said in her motion.

Mandel has requested an evidentiary hearing to determine if Behnke leaked any information obtained from state prosecutors during the federal investigation to Arent Fox attorneys. If he did, Mandel is requesting that Judge Michael A. Smith bar the law firm and its attorneys from working on the case.

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