By Joe Nelson, The Sun
and Richard K. De Atley, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 05/11/17 – 10:27 AM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> The judge in the Colonies corruption trial on Thursday dismissed two felony charges against former San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin after an appellate court determined that the offenses could only be charged as misdemeanors.

And because Erwin’s alleged crimes for failing to publicly report gifts he received from a Rancho Cucamonga developer in January 2007 while serving as Assistant Assessor were not charged until May 2011, the four-year statute of limitations to charge those crimes as misdemeanors lapsed.

Therefore, Judge Michael A. Smith, at the request of Erwin’s attorney, Rajan Maline, dismissed the charges. It brings the total number of criminal charges against Erwin that have been dropped since his May 2011 indictment to seven.

“We’re very pleased that we had this outcome. We kind of expected it, based on the judge’s comments last time,” Maline said following Thursday’s court proceedings. “Whether we’re down to 10 charges or 20 charges, or one charge, Mr. Erwin is completely innocent. So we’re just going forward and doing our thing. At the end, we expect that we will be vindicated.”

Erwin is still charged with 10 felonies, which include aiding and abetting in the receipt of a bribe and failing to file a tax return. The two charges dismissed Thursday were for Erwin allegedly failing to properly report gifts from Rancho Cucamonga developer and defendant Jeff Burum, including a Rolex watch valued at more than $12,000 and a luxurious trip to New York City in January 2007, where Burum purchased the watch for Erwin.

Erwin wound up reporting the gifts in February 2009, about a month after district attorney investigators raided his Highland home and seized the watch. But by then, it was too late; the District Attorney’s Office charged Erwin with the two felony counts of filing a false or forged document, plus other charges, in March 2009. The charges were eventually rolled over into the 2011 indictment against Erwin, Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane, and Mark Kirk, chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

In the Colonies case, prosecutors allege three former top county officials each took $100,000 bribes, which were reported as contributions to political action committees, from Burum to gain approval for a $102 million court settlement over flood control work at a 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland. The development was funded by Rancho Cucamonga investor group Colonies Partners LP, the namesake of the criminal case and of which Burum is a co-managing partner.

All four defendants deny any wrongdoing, maintaining that the contributions by Colonies Partners were legal, publicly reported and an attempt to mend fences after nearly five years of contentious legal battle with the county.

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