Attorneys Stephen Larson, middle, and Jennifer Keller, left, discuss their case with defendant Jeff Burum, one of four defendants currently on trial in the San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case. (File)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
and Richard K. De Atley, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 05/16/17 – 1:55 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Former San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus testified Tuesday in the Colonies corruption trial that he never thought a $102 million settlement favorable to a Rancho Cucamonga developer 11 years ago would result in kickback money to him — a statement that goes to the heart of the six-year-old case.

Postmus, testifying for his eighth day, told defense attorney Jennifer Keller he was “100 percent” certain that he was not getting a bribe when he and three others each received $100,000 from Colonies Partners LP in 2007. The money came in the form of contributions to political action committees the recipients were affiliated with and which prosecutors allege were used to conceal the bribes.

A prosecution witness, Postmus has now testified several times he did not see the money as a bribe. Postmus was once a defendant in the case, but made a plea deal with prosecutors in 2011 to testify against the others.

He also agreed Tuesday with defense suggestions that his damaging statements made during the 2011 investigation were affected by his addiction to methamphetamine and by suggestions from district attorney investigators to change his narrative.

Postmus at one point brought up, unprompted, his practice of huffing during 2011 because he had built up a tolerance for methamphetamine and was no longer feeling the euphoric effects of the drug. He said huffing — inhaling chemical vapors from substances such as aerosols — causes memory loss and brain damage.

“That became my new addiction in the latter part of my using before I finally got clean, and that is much more worse than amphetamines,” Postmus said.

He said his huffing peaked in 2011. Postmus maintains he has been sober since 2012.

Keller noted how the content of Postmus’ statements migrated from neutral to damaging during his five recorded interviews with district attorney investigators and testimony before grand jurors. Those recordings have been played in the San Bernardino courtroom of Judge Michael A. Smith during Postmus’ testimony.

Postmus initially told investigators that he and defendant and Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum did not discuss the Colonies case during a California business promotional trip to China in 2005, but told a 2011 grand jury that they did, Keller noted.

Keller also cited Postmus’ early statement to investigators that Burum said he would support Postmus in the future, regardless of whether a settlement was reached in the Colonies case. But then Postmus told the grand jury the promise did depend on a Colonies settlement.

“You now understand that that narrative that developed over the course of the those five interviews … you now understand that was an example of a false belief?” Keller asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Postmus replied. He said investigators pushed him to respond how he did.

Postmus was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when in November 2006 it approved, on a 3-2 vote, a $102 million payout to Colonies Partners to settle the litigation, which ended a nearly five-year legal battle over flood control work at Colonies’ 343-acre residential and commercial development in Upland. He was voted county assessor that same month in the general election.

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