Scales of Justice

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 – 09:30 a.m.

The punitive damages phase of a civil case arising from a failed murder-for-hire scheme, hatched by two members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, will go to a jury on Tuesday.

Murder target and plaintiff Leonard Epps, Former manager of the now-closed Brass Key Lounge, was the focal point of a Mexican Mafia contract inadvertently discovered by San Bernardino Police and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A previous jury awarded Epps just over $4.5 million in compensatory damages. The panel fell below the minimum number of jurors and was unable to determine how much money, if any, Epps would receive in punitive damages.

The current trial consisted mostly of re-reading of transcripts from the previous trial and examination of the financial assets and ability to pay of Defendants Erik Barajas and Stacy Nunez-Barajas.

Both are siblings.

The defense strategy used in the trial was a simple one: The defendants have suffered enough.

Erik Barajas, who according to court documents earns $2.5 million annually from the Tribe, has completed probation and relocated to San Diego County. Stacy Barajas is currently serving a lengthy State Prison term. Her annual income has been reduced to just over $1 million due to her misconduct.

Epps is represented by Highland Attorney Frank Peterson. San Bernardino Attorney Joseph Arias is handling the defense.