05:26 PM PDT on Friday, August 27, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

Special Section: San Jacinto Corruption Probe

A preliminary hearing to decide whether six relatives of the defendants in a San Jacinto political corruption indictment should be tried in a perjury and campaign money-laundering case will resume next month.

During a day of testimony, only one of the six defendants’ attorneys had a chance to argue that the prosecution’s case is not worthy of trial.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly set Sept. 10 for the defense arguments to resume. Efforts that started Aug. 20 to end the case with plea bargains collapsed and attorneys declined to discuss details.

The campaign money-laundering complaint charges each defendant with conspiracy, perjury, making campaign contributions under a false name and making an unlawful contribution on another’s behalf. All have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the defendants made illegal contributions to San Jacinto City Councilman Jim Ayres’ failed 2006 state Assembly campaign fund.

The contributions were made in November 2007, about 18 months after the political contest was over.

Kim Robinson, lead investigator for the district attorney’s office in the case, testified Friday that bank statements obtained through search warrants showed each defendant made contributions, then was illegally reimbursed.

The amounts of the political contribution checks were matched by cash deposits into their bank accounts within days, he said.

The six appeared before the 2009 grand jury, which handed up an indictment naming nine corruption case defendants, including Ayres and three other members of the San Jacinto City Council. All six lied, prosecutors said.

Some defense attorneys challenged whether their clients could be linked to the money trail outlined by Robinson. He said the illicit cash went from developer Stephen Holgate, through San Jacinto City Councilman John Mansperger and then through the six defendants to Ayers’ in-debt Assembly campaign fund.

Mansperger, Holgate and Ayres are three of nine defendants charged last year in a 155-count indictment that names four San Jacinto council members. The indictment grew from one of the Inland’s most sweeping corruption investigations.

All nine defendants have pleaded not guilty.

The preliminary hearing is for a complaint filed separately after the indictment. The complaint and the indictment do not share any defendants.

Four of the illegal campaign contribution defendants are related to Mansperger: his wife, Shanda Lynn Mansperger; his nephew Christopher Mason; and his sister and brother-in-law, Marcia and Kirk Mathews.

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