Sunday, April 24, 2011 – 09:15 a.m.

A San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge on Friday acknowledged a District Attorney request to delay the preliminary hearing for defendant Jim Erwin scheduled to start Monday morning.

Erwin’s charges stem from an investigation into the 2006 settlement between the County of San Bernardino and Colonies Partners L.P.

An ongoing grand jury proceeding involving the prosecutor assigned and the unavailability of witness Mitchell Norton was the reason given in a motion for a two-week continuance filed by Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope.

Norton is a Deputy County Counsel, who was the lead in-house lawyer overseeing the Colonies litigation, is also a subpoenaed defense witness.

Recently, in a related civil legal proceeding, Norton admitted the county was in trouble in the Colonies case, and was likely to pay more, if the matter had proceeded to trial to determine actual money damages.

Judge Duke D. Rouse indicated he would rule on the prosecution motion Monday.

Prosecutors have until May 25 to hold the hearing or obtain a grand jury indictment.

If prosecutors fail to do either, the current charges could be dismissed.

In a preliminary hearing prosecutors present probable cause (an inference that a crime was committed) to hold the defendant to answer at trial, while the defense can publicly challenge any evidence and testimony.

Earlier this year the two cases against Erwin, the Colonies matter, and a case related to alleged disclosure violations, was consolidated into one complaint. Last November, Rouse indicated he would likely dismiss, at a preliminary hearing, at least 9 of the 21 counts currently charged against Erwin in the now consolidated case on multiplicity grounds.

Meaning prosecutors overcharged various offenses.