9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - 2

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 05/06/16 – 4:20 PM PDT |

To read order, click the following link: USA v. Jeffrey Burum – Memoranda Order

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court’s order in San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case, in which a defense attorney is challenging evidence seized by the FBI in 2011.

In the four-page ruling, a three-judge panel concluded that U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero abused his discretion when he declined to hold an evidentiary hearing at the request of Upland defense attorney Stephen G. Larson, who is representing Rancho Cucamonga developer and defendant Jeff Burum.

Burum and three former top county officials stand accused of conspiring to fix a $102 million settlement in November 2006 between the county and Burum’s Rancho Cucamonga investor group, Colonies Partners LP, in exchange for bribes. Also charged in the case are former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

All four defendants have maintained their innocence since a grand jury indicted them in May 2011.

When prosecutors declined to file federal charges in May 2012 for undisclosed reasons, they handed over the evidence they gathered to state prosecutors. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices are jointly prosecuting the criminal case at the state level.

It’s this evidence Burum wants to challenge at an evidentiary hearing.

In its Friday decision, the Ninth Circuit remanded the case back to Otero’s courtroom for an evidentiary hearing, where it will be determined which evidence seized by the FBI can be used by state prosecutors, falls within the scope of the search warrants, is bound by the attorney-client privilege and which evidence needs to be returned to Burum or destroyed.

District Attorney spokesman Christopher Lee declined to comment Friday, citing the pending litigation.

“The impact of this ruling could fundamentally taint the state’s case. It’s the latest example that prosecutors and investigators pursued a case without regard to the law and, more importantly, Mr. Burum’s innocence. It’s time to end this,” Larson said in a statement Friday.

Burum is challenging the September 2011 FBI raid at his Rancho Cucamonga home and office, arguing in court motions the warrants were overly broad and stale because the investigation stemmed from alleged crimes that occurred more than five years prior to the serving of the search warrants.
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