Charles “Chase’ Merritt (File photo)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 09/23/16 – 4:08 PM PDT |

The attorney for McStay family murder suspect Charles “Chase” Merritt told a San Bernardino Superior Court judge Friday he cannot begin trial until he finishes defending another client in a public corruption case, scheduled to begin Oct. 17 and last seven months.

Merritt’s attorney, Rajan Maline, is defending former San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin in the far-reaching Colonies corruption case. In that case, prosecutors allege Erwin and two former top county officials conspired with a Rancho Cucamonga developer to fix a $102 million settlement between the county and Rancho Cucamonga investor group Colonies Partners LP in November 2006 in exchange for bribes.

Also charged in the Colonies case are former county Supervisor Paul Biane, Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for erstwhile county Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

Judge Michael A. Smith, who is also presiding over the Colonies case, scheduled Merritt’s next hearing for Oct. 21 for a case management conference.

Maline said Merritt’s trial is expected to last three months.

“It’s a circumstantial evidence case, so obviously it’s going to take time,” Maline said.

He said he feels the capital murder case, despite thousands of pages in case files and other discovery and Merritt having fired or relieved his two former lead attorneys, has progressed rather quickly toward trial.

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