10:00 PM PST on Friday, January 21, 2011

By RICHARD K. DE ATLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Defense attorneys in the San Jacinto corruption case withdrew a motion to remove the Riverside County district attorney’s office from the matter, saying they will trust new head prosecutor Paul Zellerbach’s word that he will review the case fairly.

Attorneys, including a representative of the state attorney general’s office, came to court to argue the matter on Friday. The defense motion said the attorney general’s office should take over the case, a move which the state office opposed.

Defendants said campaign claims by former District Attorney Rod Pacheco linking the San Jacinto case, its defense and Zellerbach had created a political pressure conflict that made it impossible for Zellerbach to manage the case fairly.

The matter was resolved when the motion was withdrawn. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michele Levine set Feb. 4 to hear dismissal motions.

A 155-count indictment in November 2009 named nine defendants in a wide-ranging probe of developers, San Jacinto political figures and campaign money.

The case alleges that tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money were laundered. There also are charges of tax fraud, bribery, perjury and filing false documents.

Four of the indictees were San Jacinto City Council members, and one was on the San Jacinto school board. All four councilmen were recalled, and the school board member resigned. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

In a separate case, six other defendants, all of them related to two of those named in the indictment, are charged with lying to grand jurors about secret reimbursements they are accused of receiving for campaign contributions to Jim Ayres’ Assembly campaign fund. All of those defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Attorney Paul Grech, representing defendant Stephen Holgate, claimed in his motion that Pacheco “acted in an uncontrolled and reckless manner during his failed campaign for re-election that created a conflict of interest for the newly elected DA Paul Zellerbach.”

Grech pointed to Pacheco’s characterization of Zellerbach as soft on crime, along with campaign literature that claimed Grech’s financial contribution to Zellerbach was done to avoid facing Pacheco in court on the San Jacinto matter.

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