By Richard K. De Atley | rdeatley@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise
January 10, 2018 at 4:02 pm

The final defendant in the Beaumont corruption case “expressly and unmistakably” surrendered his right to a speedy preliminary hearing, and a claim that he was denied a chance to see the evidence against him is “clearly contrived,” prosecutors said Wednesday as they asked a judge to deny his motion for dismissal.

Former Beaumont City Attorney Joseph Sandy Aklufi, who is charged with six counts of embezzlement, claimed in his dismissal motion that he was wrongly denied his right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days of his most recent arraignment. He also said prosecutors were slow to deliver the evidence they had gathered against him, a process known as discovery.

Judge Mac R. Fisher will preside over a Jan. 17 hearing on the motion.

The other six defendants entered pleas in October and December, and five of them agreed to pay a total of $11.1 million in restitution to the Western Riverside Council of Governments. The defendants included the former city manager, planning director, economic development director, finance director, public works director, and police chief.

Most of those defendants had been accused of illegally diverting $43 million in regional transit funds from the joint powers agency, instead using the money for Beaumont-only projects, from which they profited through a company they then owned. Their company had contracted with Beaumont for public works projects and bond management.

Earlier this month, Aklufi, 71, sought to have the case dismissed, saying he was improperly denied requests for a speedy preliminary hearing three times after pleading not guilty in February 2017 to an amended complaint. Instead, the preliminary hearing was eventually set for Feb. 22, 2018 — 384 days after he entered that plea.

In a preliminary hearing, a judge weighs whether the evidence merits sending the defendant to trial.

California appellate courts have ruled that a defendant’s right to a preliminary hearing within at least two months of entering a not-guilty plea is absolute if not waived. That’s regardless of the complexity of the case or whether co-defendants have relinquished the hearing deadline, both elements of the Beaumont case, according to the dismissal motion by defense attorney Stephen Larson.

But prosecutors said Aklufi permanently waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days in the August 2016 arraignment on the first complaint filed in the case.

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