Courts

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 09/30/16 – 3:20 PM PDT |

Prosecutors in San Bernardino County’s Colonies public corruption case were ordered Friday by a Superior Court judge to return some documents and personal items seized by the FBI during a 2011 raid at one of the defendants’ home and business.

But Judge Michael A. Smith has yet to rule on a request by the defense to suppress all evidence seized in the search from the upcoming trial, scheduled to begin Oct. 17. The trial will have two juries and is expected to last seven months.

Smith said he has to read through the roughly 130-page federal search warrant affidavit to determine if there was probable cause to search the Rancho Cucamonga home and business of defendant Jeff Burum, a developer. He will rule on the motion Wednesday, when he is also expected to hear arguments from both sides on what evidence can and cannot be produced at trial, as well as who will and will not take the witness stand.

Burum’s attorneys are fighting to get evidence from the FBI search tossed on grounds the search warrant was overly broad, included dated information and was served at the wrong locations.

Defense attorneys are also alleging the Sept. 15, 2011, search of Burum’s home and business, Diversified Pacific, was a concerted act of retaliation that occurred about a month after San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville dismissed most of the felony charges against Burum: two counts of bribery, two counts of asking for/receiving a bribe and one count of conflict of interest.

Jennifer Keller, one of Burum’s attorneys, told Smith on Friday investigators should have searched the office of investor group Colonies Partners LP in Upland, the source of the $400,000 in bribes prosecutors are alleging Burum gave to former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus and the other three defendants: former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

Instead, investigators raided Burum’s home and development company, hindering his business operations, Keller said.

“It was punishment of Jeff Burum. It was to toss his business and interrupt what he had,” Keller said. “If they had gone after Colonies Partners records, it would have been a completely different story.”

Burum, a co-managing partner at Colonies Partners, is accused of disguising the alleged bribes as contributions from Colonies Partners to phony political action committees secretly controlled by the other defendants or members of their staffs.

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