Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum has sued San Bernardino County and the state in federal court alleging malicious prosecution in connection with the ill-fated Colonies bribery case. Burum, who along with two co-defendants were acquitted last August on all charges, is seeking no less than $50 million in damages.

By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: April 3, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Updated: April 3, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum has filed a $50 million malicious prosecution lawsuit in federal court against San Bernardino County, District Attorney Mike Ramos and former state Attorneys General Kamala Harris and Jerry Brown.

Burum alleges in his lawsuit, filed Monday, April 2, in U.S. District Court in Riverside, that his prosecution was retaliatory and that prosecutors fabricated evidence to use against him at his trial, which ended in August 2017 with him and co-defendants Paul Biane, a former county supervisor, and Mark Kirk, the former chief of staff to former county supervisor Gary Ovitt, acquitted by their jury after one day of deliberating. The judge dismissed all charges against the fourth defendant, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, a month later after his jury deadlocked and prosecutor Lewis Cope said there were “unresolvable witness issues.”

Defendants also named in the lawsuit include Colonies prosecutors Cope and Supervising Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel, former assistant district attorney Jim Hackleman, district attorney investigators Robert Schreiber and Hollis “Bud” Randles, and county Supervisor Josie Gonzales, among others.

It is the second federal lawsuit filed in connection with the ill-fated Colonies corruption case, in which state and local prosecutors alleged Burum conspired with his co-defendants to secure a $102 million legal settlement between Burum’s real estate investor group, Colonies Partners LP, and the county in November 2006 in exchange for bribes. The settlement, in Colonies’ favor, ended longstanding and contentious litigation over flood-control improvements at Colonies Partners’ 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland, Colonies at San Antonio and Colonies Crossroads, respectively.

“Mr. Burum’s claims are based on an illegal campaign of retaliation, intimidation, and harassment by the County and the State of California, via their employees,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges that, following Colonies Partners prevailing in the original Colonies’ civil litigation that spanned from 2002 through 2006, the defendants targeted Colonies through an unfounded investigation of its two managing partners without justification or probable cause. The criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution, according to the lawsuit, was punishment for Burum exercising his Constitutional rights to sue the county and speak out publicly about the litigation and push for a settlement.

“You don’t get to destroy a part of someone’s life by manipulating evidence and eliciting false testimony as both the DA and Attorney General did in this case and then just walk away,” said Burum’s attorney, Stephen G. Larson, in a statement Tuesday. “This lawsuit is about accountability and justice, both of which went AWOL in this case.”

To read expanded article, click here.