Felony counts dropped; $10,000 in fines ordered
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/19/2011 07:15:02 PM PDT

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry on Tuesday pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of failing to report a campaign contribution under a plea agreement to have two felony charges against him dismissed.

Derry’s plea followed a three-hour series of meetings with San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael Dest and attorneys for both sides. State Deputy Attorney General Emily Hanks agreed to drop the felony charges of perjury and filing a false document.

Dest sentenced Derry to three years of probation and ordered him to pay a $5,820 fine to the state Fair Political Practices Commission and a $4,180 fine to the court. Both fines must be paid by Sept. 19.

“This was clearly a political prosecution from the beginning in an effort to remove me from office without cause,” Derry, 42, said after the hearing. “I agreed to this so I can get back to work. This was a compromise. I still maintain my innocence.”

He blames a rival, District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, for fueling the prosecution. The case was investigated by the District Attorney’s Office before being handed off to state prosecutors to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

Derry pushed for an investigation when Ramos was accused of sexually harassing a former employee in 2009 and in the same year also proposed stripping district attorney’s investigators of their take-home vehicles to help shore up the budget.

The District Attorney’s Office declined comment.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Hanks requested that Derry be prohibited from running for public office for four years due to the seriousness of the offense.

“The defendant’s conduct here was unusual. He was personally involved,” Hanks told Dest.

She said Derry had a personal relationship with former county Assessor Bill Postmus and that the two conspired to funnel a $5,000 campaign contribution intended for Derry’s campaign through Postmus’ political action committee, Inland Empire PAC, so the donor could be anonymous.

Dest declined Hanks’ request, saying the penalty he was imposing on Derry was “severe” and appropriate for a misdemeanor. He said Derry was free to continue his campaign for re-election in November 2012.

Hanks declined comment after Tuesday’s hearing.

Derry said he can now resume voting as a county supervisor and a member of the Omnitrans and San Bernardino Associated Governments boards on agenda items seeking federal funding. He recused himself in May from voting on such items.

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