San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman (left), who pleaded guilty in 2009 to multiple felonies in connection with corruption at the Assessor’s Office, was sentenced to 180 days in jail Friday December 1, 2017 during a sentencing hearing at the San Bernardino Justice Center as his attorney Grover Porter (right) stand beside him. Aleman became a key witness the Colonies public corruption case in which all four defendants were either acquitted or had their charges dismissed. Aleman will turn himself into authorities to begin his sentence no later than January 24. (Will Lester-Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

By Joe Nelson | | San Bernardino Sun
Published: December 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Updated: December 2, 2017 at 1:07 am

Former San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman, a key figure in corruption scandals involving the Assessor’s Office and a controversial legal settlement between the county and a land developer, was sentenced Friday to six months in jail.

Aleman, 34, appeared with his attorney, Grover Porter, before Judge Michael A. Smith in San Bernardino Superior Court for his sentencing.

Smith, per the request of Porter and prosecutor Lewis Cope, reduced Aleman’s felony offenses to misdemeanors, then ordered him to surrender to the West Valley Detention Center, in Rancho Cucamonga, on Jan. 24 to begin serving his sentence. Aleman must serve his jail sentence as straight time, with no possibility for work release, early release or serving his time on weekends, Smith said.

“The defendant committed some very serious offenses involving public trust and integrity of county government. Those are obviously very serious offenses that there has to be consequences for,” Smith said during Friday’s proceedings. He said he had to balance Aleman’s cooperation with authorities since the time of his plea agreement eight years ago with having to mete out justice for Aleman’s crimes.

Cope concurred with Porter that Aleman testified truthfully at trial and cooperated with prosecutors and investigators.

“The D.A.’s position is that Mr. Aleman has always complied with the terms and conditions of his plea agreement,” Cope told Smith.

Porter told Smith that Aleman has matured over the last eight years and took responsibility for his actions early on in the case.

Smith said reducing Aleman’s felonies to misdemeanors was a “pretty big benefit” to Aleman, and that his initial inclination was to sentence Aleman to a year in jail.

“My impression is that Mr. Aleman was basically being truthful to the best of his ability in most of the matters,” said Smith. “I think there may have been some areas where he exaggerated a little bit or filled in some blanks to try to perhaps put him in a stronger position with the District Attorney, but overall, I think his testimony was basically truthful and accurate.”

It countered the contention of defense attorneys and jurors who believe Aleman concocted stories and lied to investigators and prosecutors, to the grand jury and during trial in an effort to soften the blow of his own criminal culpability in the Assessor’s Office scandal.

Aleman, per a plea agreement with prosecutors, pleaded no contest on June 30, 2009, to four felonies in connection with crimes he committed at the Assessor’s Office in 2008, including destruction of a county-owned laptop computer and presenting falsified minutes from meetings at the Assessor’s Office to the grand jury. He agreed to cooperate with authorities in the Colonies corruption case, in which Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt, were accused of conspiring to fix a $102 million settlement between the county and Burum’s real estate investor group, Colonies Partners LP, in November 2006 in exchange for bribes.

The settlement ended prolonged litigation over who was responsible for paying for flood control improvements at Colonies 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.

The allegations were never proven true. The marathon Colonies trial that ran from January through August ended in an acquittal in August for Burum, Biane and Kirk. A month later, Smith, at the request of Cope, dismissed the case against Erwin after his jury announced it was “hopelessly deadlocked.”

Erwin had a separate jury because some of the evidence against him was inadmissible against the other defendants.

The ill-fated Colonies trial turned into a debacle, with witness testimony, including Aleman’s, proving catastrophic for prosecutors. Defense attorneys extracted testimony from Aleman showing he lied to the grand jury and during the trial, portraying him as a “mealy-mouthed little liar” to jurors, most of whom agreed with the defense.

“Adam Aleman looted the Assessor’s office, admitted to committing multiple felonies, admitted to perjuring himself before the grand
jury, and was caught in multiple lies in the Colonies criminal trial, all at a cost of millions and millions of wasted county taxpayer
dollars,” said Burum’s spokesman, Edward Barrera, in a statement Friday. “For all that, he gets a slap on a wrist. This furthers the
outrageous injustice against Mr. Burum and cries out for reform in our justice system and the removal of Mike Ramos, our supposedly
“anti-corruption” District Attorney.”

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