Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/26/2010 05:22:15 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – Former county Assessor Bill Postmus and his former assistant Jim Erwin were arraigned Monday on corruption charges in connection with an investigation by state and local prosecutors into the county’s $102 million Colonies lawsuit settlement in 2006.

Postmus and Erwin made a scheduled appearance before Judge Michael Dest in San Bernardino Superior Court, where the court entered not guilty pleas to all charges on behalf of the defendants, said Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope, after the proceedings.

The court also appointed the county Public Defender’s Office to represent Postmus after he declared that he was indigent and could no longer afford his attorney Stephen Levine. Deputy Public Defender Jeff Lawrence stood in to represent Postmus for the proceedings.

Postmus said afterward that his lengthy legal fight had left him “broke.”

“It’s clear from today’s activities that Mr. Postmus did not reap the financial benefits from the allegations,” said Levine, after he left the courtroom.

Levine said he had read about 700 pages of evidence in the case when he learned about Postmus’ financial situation.

Lawrence declined to comment.

Postmus, 38, of Victorville, returns to court Friday to confirm whether the Public Defender’s Office can continue to represent him without declaring a conflict.

Erwin was represented during the proceedings for the first time by a second criminal attorney, Steve Harmon, the defense lawyer said in court. Erwin now has two criminal attorneys and continues to be represented by Rajan Maline, as well as civil attorney Alan Mohill.

Erwin, 47, of Highland, returns to court June 3 for a status hearing. Maline could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors also turned over three file boxes full of discovery to the lawyer for each defendant. Cope would not say what type of evidence was contained in the boxes.

“Obviously, we’d like to get this thing moving along as quickly as possible,” Cope said, as he was leaving the courthouse. However, the prosecutor said he understood time was needed to square away representation for the defendants.

The Colonies lawsuit settlement has been described by state and local prosecutors as the “biggest corruption scandal in San Bernardino County’s history.”

Charges against the defendants include extortion, bribery and misappropriation of public funds. District Attorney Michael A. Ramos has alleged Postmus, Erwin and several unnamed co-conspirators were involved in a massive conspiracy to direct millions of dollars in public funds to a Rancho Cucamonga developer.

At the time of the Colonies settlement, Postmus was chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. Erwin, who was then the chief of administration for the Safety Employees Benefit Association, served as an intermediary on behalf of Colonies.

The lawsuit stemmed from a dispute over costs for flood-control improvements at the Colonies Crossroads residential and commercial development adjacent to the 210 Freeway in Upland.

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