10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cassie MacDuff

Lawyers for two former San Bernardino County officials accused of bribery, conspiracy, extortion and other felonies came out swinging this week against the witness on whose testimony the case hinges.

In separate phone interviews Wednesday, lawyers for former county Supervisor Bill Postmus and former assistant assessor Jim Erwin attacked the credibility of their clients’ former assessor’s office colleague, Adam Aleman.

In addition, the lawyers accused DA Mike Ramos and Attorney General Jerry Brown of political grandstanding — announcing the sensational charges just as the election season nears.

Ramos is up for re-election, and Brown may run for governor in June.

Erwin’s lawyer, Rajan Maline, and Postmus’ lawyer, Stephen Levine, both said Aleman, who was assistant assessor under Postmus, is testifying to save his own skin.

Aleman was charged with felonies of falsifying evidence to the grand jury in the 2008 probe of political activity in the assessor’s office. He pleaded no contest last summer, and the charges will be reduced to misdemeanors in exchange for his testimony.

Maline said the case is based solely on Aleman’s grand jury testimony and statements to investigators.

Ramos, by phone from Sacramento on Wednesday afternoon, denied the case is based on Aleman’s testimony alone. There are other witnesses and evidence such as campaign records and bank records, he said.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Gary Schons said he couldn’t discuss evidence.

Ramos and Schons said the timing of the complaint was decided by the lawyers from both offices working on the case and was unrelated to the coming election.

“When would have been a good time?” Ramos asked. “How would they feel if it was in the middle of the election? Or if we had all this information (and) waited until after the election …?”

Ramos said the timing would have been criticized if the charges hadn’t been disclosed until after the election in which supervisors Paul Biane and Gary Ovitt are seeking re-election. Biane is reportedly one of five unnamed co-conspirators, as is Ovitt’s chief of staff.

The criminal complaint alleges John Doe #5 (thought to be Biane) voted along with Postmus in favor of a $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners because of a combination of money and pressure from John Doe #1 (thought to be Colonies co-managing partner Jeff Burum).

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