Attorneys Stephen Larson, (L), and Rajan Maline congratulate Jim Erwin, after hearing he will not be re-tried on any charges regarding the Colonies corruption case, Friday, at San Bernardino Justice Center in San Bernardino, Ca., September 22, 2017. Judge Michael A. Smith dismissed all of the remaining counts against the former assistant county assessor and sheriff’s labor union president. (John Valenzuela/The Sun/SCNG)

By Ryan Hagen | rhagen@scng.com and Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: September 22, 2017 at 9:19 am |
Updated:   September 24, 2017 at 9:30 am

SAN BERNARDINO >> The judge in the San Bernardino County Colonies corruption case on Friday dismissed all charges against the only remaining defendant, Jim Erwin, after prosecutors announced they did not want to retry the case.

It ended the epic case — nearly eight years after the first arrest and following a marathon eight-month trial that ended with none of the four defendants being convicted.

“Eight and a half years. I’m numb,” Erwin said following Friday’s proceedings. “I guess the best way to describe it is bittersweet.”

Erwin’s jury had announced Sept. 13 that it was “hopelessly deadlocked” on all counts, giving District Attorney Mike Ramos and his office until Friday to decide whether they would attempt to try the case again on all or some of those counts.

Lead prosecutor Lewis Cope told Judge Michael A. Smith during Friday’s hearing that they did not wish to retry Erwin.

“Since the conclusion of jury deliberations, the people have carefully evaluated our current position,” Cope told Smith during Friday’s proceedings. “We’ve identified some witness problems we felt we cannot resolve. As a result, we’re hoping to dismiss this case in the interest of justice.”

With that, Smith dismissed the case, which was met with a burst of applause in the packed courtroom.

Erwin’s attorney, Rajan Maline, said after Friday’s proceedings that Cope’s announcement was “somewhat unexpected.”

“Obviously, we’re thrilled,” Maline said. “It just goes to show that there was no wrongdoing on Mr. Erwin’s part from the very beginning. This was clearly a situation where Mr. Erwin maintained his innocence from day one.”

Prosecutors alleged Erwin took part in the bribery of two county officials to get a San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approval of a $102 million court settlement in favor of Rancho Cucamonga-based developer Colonies Partners LP in 2006.

Erwin also was charged with intentionally failing to file his state tax return for 2008, and two counts of perjury — one of those for not reporting a gifted $12,765 Rolex watch from Colonies Partners co-managing partner Jeff Burum and other items from an East Coast trip to celebrate the settlement.

The Rolex was seized during a raid at Erwin’s home by district attorney investigators in January 2009 and has remained stored in evidence ever since. Cope on Friday asked Judge Smith to release the watch back to Erwin, which Smith obliged.

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