07:41 AM PDT on Tuesday, April 27, 2010

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

Former San Bernardino County assessor Bill Postmus and former assistant assessor Jim Erwin pleaded not guilty Monday to bribery and conspiracy charges.

Superior Court Judge Michael Dest entered the pleas on behalf of Postmus and Erwin, who are accused of taking part in a conspiracy that resulted in the Board of Supervisors approving a $102 million lawsuit settlement with Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners in November 2006.

Postmus, who was chairman of the Board of Supervisors at the time of the settlement, is charged with six felonies, including conspiracy, accepting a bribe and possession of methamphetamine.

Erwin is charged with nine felony counts, including conspiracy, extortion and bribery. At the time of the settlement, he worked for Colonies as an intermediary to county officials.

Both men are out on bail. They are expected back in court June 3 for a status hearing.

Postmus and Erwin have denied the charges.

The arraignment came more than two months after California Attorney General Jerry Brown and San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos announced the charges at a news conference.

Postmus and Erwin — along with five unnamed and uncharged co-conspirators — are accused of participating in a scheme to use bribery and extortion to secure the votes needed to settle the county’s lengthy legal battle with Colonies.

During Monday’s hearing, Postmus asked for a court-appointed attorney, filing an affidavit declaring he no longer can afford to pay his attorney, Stephen Levine, of San Bernardino.

A hearing will be held Friday to determine if the public defender’s office will represent Postmus or if Levine may be appointed to continue to handle his defense.

Meanwhile, Erwin, who is already represented by Riverside attorney Rajan Maline, added a second lawyer to his defense, Steven Harmon, a Riverside attorney who has his own practice.

To read entire story, click here.