Attorney/Law Professor Jason Anderson left. Incumbent District Attorney Mike Ramos right.

Shea Johnson, Staff Reporter
Sunday, April 8, 2018 – 06:22 a.m.

  • It remains to be seen how exactly the residuum will impact this election. What is clear, however, is that it is firmly intertwined in it.

Mike Ramos, the San Bernardino County District Attorney, will announce on Monday a newly created prevention and intervention unit to act as the community outreach arm of his office, where he has been the top prosecutor since 2002.

It’ll oversee a misdemeanor diversion program and mental health and drug courts, but also expand efforts to combat truancy, gang prevention and a partnership with Loma Linda University.

“We gotta do something on the front end,” he told the Daily Press.

As his fourth term winds down, Ramos — who seriously flirted with ambitions to be state attorney general before reversing step a year ago — is hoping that voters will send another message of endorsement at the polls June 5.

“Any election that there is, I don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I care about this office so much. I put a lot of energy into the campaign.”

But the incumbent prosecutorial chief has a challenger: Jason Anderson, a former deputy district attorney who turned defense lawyer in 2014 after 17 years in the DA’s office.

Anderson, 46, views this election as the ripest opportunity to date to enact true reforms within the office he says are sorely needed. Those include lifting the morale of prosecutors, re-calibrating the focus away from conviction numbers and back to seeking justice and, most immediately, scrubbing the political tenor from its highest post.

As he put it, the time is perfect to “create the feeling of a law firm, and not just another government agency.”

Ramos, 60, dismissed the notion of unrest inside his office. He insisted it was his leadership, the assembled team and the office’s priorities that have outlined the success of his tenure.

He defers to the office possessing one of the highest felony conviction rates in the state, and one of the highest gang member conviction rates in the U.S., as well as efforts made to support victims’ rights and combat human trafficking, animal cruelty, crimes against police officers, welfare fraud and public corruption.

For all intents and purposes, it’s the latter, public corruption, that now seems poised to take center stage in this race. The disintegration of the long-running Colonies case in late August has so far generated intense fallout, including tens of millions of dollars sought in the courts by those acquitted.

It remains to be seen how exactly the residuum will impact this election. What is clear, however, is that it is firmly intertwined in it. Anderson has rebuked Ramos for exercising poor judgment in championing a case he ultimately couldn’t prove, and those who were vindicated have begun to pour money into making Ramos pay at the polls.

Ramos, meanwhile, hasn’t swatted back the idea that the Colonies case, or at least those once accused, will be a player to contend. But he has tried to cast off the challenger as nothing more than an instrument of his political enemies.

“Make no doubt about it, they’re trying to buy this office and put someone in there that they can control,” Ramos said, accusing Anderson of trying to conceal his supporters.

Anderson responded that it was far from true and it should be no surprise that those negatively impacted by the Colonies trial — once declared the largest corruption scandal in this county’s history — would want to remove the DA.

Mark Kirk, once a top aide to a former county supervisor, was one of three acquitted Aug. 28. He had faced charges of conflict of interest and improper influence of an official.

But he is now an officer — along with Jim Erwin, the former county assistant assessor acquitted of corruption charges during a separate trial — on a political action committee called Business Leaders for Fair and Ethical Government.

Created to oppose Ramos’ re-election bid, the PAC has already raised more than $500,000, with help in contributions from acquitted Colonies Partners LP developer Jeff Burum.

Kirk said it was on pace to raise $1 million and would even find more if needed: “Whatever it takes, I mean that.”

He also pushed back on the incumbent’s suggestions that money spent against him, which come as independent expenditures, could be reduced to merely a disgruntled ring of backers or that there were any attempts to skirt transparency.

“That’s to be expected from a campaign and a candidate that quite frankly is desperate and in trouble,” Kirk said. “When you can’t run on your own record and the truth isn’t your friend … then you spin up and say a bunch of things that aren’t true and see what sticks.”

Anderson is also seeing a lift from the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association, which has already donated $78,422 to the campaign through independent expenditures, and also counts Burum as a contributor.

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