11:42 PM PDT on Friday, September 3, 2010

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

Former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus and Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin are seeking to have corruption charges against them dismissed, arguing that a legal settlement that is the crux of the case is “immune” from challenge.

Erwin and Postmus, who are co-defendants in the case, appeared in court briefly Friday. Superior Court Judge Duke Rouse set a Sept. 15 date to hear the matter.

Postmus and Erwin are facing multiple bribery and conspiracy charges related to a $102 million lawsuit settlement with Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners that the county entered into in November 2006. Postmus, who was chairman of the Board of Supervisors that approved the deal, and Erwin, who was a consultant for Colonies at the time, are accused of taking part in a scheme that involved bribery and extortion to gain approval of the deal.

Both have pleaded not guilty and Colonies has denied the allegations.

Erwin’s attorney, Rajan Maline, said his motion argues that under state civil code once a legal settlement has been approved and validated by the courts it can’t be challenged or overturned. He admitted it was a novel legal argument.

“It’s never been done before,” Maline said. “We’ve never had a situation like that arrive before.”

Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel called the argument patently frivolous.

Maline has also filed a motion seeking dismissal of the charges against Erwin on separate grounds, holding that the statute of limitations to try him had expired and that criminal charges lacked sufficient clarity. That will be heard on Sept. 15 also.

“We disagree with their motion,” said Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope.

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