Scales of Justice

By Greg Moran |
Aug. 10, 2016 – 12:47 p.m. |

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial of a Mexican tycoon facing federal charges he illegally contributed $600,000 in cash and services into campaigns for San Diego mayor in 2012 — including Dumanis’ unsuccessful bid.

Michael Wynne, the attorney for businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, said that in addition to Dumanis he will subpoena former Mayor Bob Filner, Rep. Juan Vargas and developer Doug Manchester.

A spokesman for Dumanis declined to comment on the subpoenas, citing the ongoing trial.

Wynne said Wednesday he wanted to call Dumanis to counter the contention from federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Azano was secretly scheming to funnel funds into her campaign.

“The truth is Mr. Azano had nothing to do with her campaign,” Wynne said.

That is what Dumanis has said since the first indictments in the case were handed down in 2014, distancing herself from Azano and saying she had no idea he was funding an independent expenditure committee set up to help her.

Dumanis has said she met with Azano at his spacious Coronado Cays waterfront home for lunch but had little recollection of the meeting, and in an interview with now defunct UT-TV after Azano’s arrest emphatically said she would have nothing to do with someone seeking favors.

“Nobody asked me for any promises, nobody talked about getting anything in exchange for anything from me and if they had I would have kicked them to the curb,” she said.

As the case has developed at the trial, more information about how much contact she had with Azano has surfaced.

Previous testimony has indicated some in the Azano camp believed Dumanis would “cut red tape” to assist Azano in what prosecutors believe was the motive behind the scheme — to build a glitzy waterfront development in the city, for which he needed a friendly face in the mayor’s office.

On Christmas Day 2011, she sent an email to her campaign staff informing them she had just had a conference call with Azano and two others charged in the case — retired San Diego detective Ernie Encinas, who headed Azano’s security detail, and Ravneet Singh, a campaign services manager.

Singh is charged with being part of the scheme by supplying internet and social media services to the campaign that were secretly paid for by Azano. Encinas has pleaded guilty to his role orchestrating donations and is expected to testify later.

In the email Dumanis said she spoke with Azano who she described as wealthy and said Singh “apparently flew to San Diego just to talk to Mr. A who wanted him to talk to me!”

“Mr. A” is one of several code names that prosecutors said during the trial that Singh’s firm used to refer to Azano.

Another connection point surfaced during the trial testimony of political consultant John Wainio. He said in 2012 he was approached by Encinas, who inquired if a political action committee of the Deputy District Attorneys Association — which was supporting Dumanis — would accept a six-figure contribution. He said it was from a Mexican billionaire who lived in Coronado.

Wainio thought the source was “fishy” and at one point he said he called Dumanis to ask if she knew whether the donor was a legal resident. He said he was met with a long silence.

In March 2012 Dumanis had a meeting with Sheriff Bill Gore, Encinas, Dumanis’ campaign fundraiser Kelli Maruccia and Azano at Gore’s offices. The sheriff testified at the trial that the 30-minute meeting was set up by Maruccia as a meet-and-greet with Azano.

Before trial, it came to light that on Sept. 28, 2012, Dumanis wrote a letter of recommendation for Azano’s son, Edward, for entrance to the University of San Diego. At first she balked at releasing the letter, which came to light in 2014, then relented. She said she wrote it at the request of Encinas.

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