Colonies case defendants Mark Kirk, Paul Biane, Jeff Burum, and Jim Erwin, appear in San Bernardino Superior Court on August 19, 2011. (File Photo)

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/02/2012 11:12:45 AM PDT

Related stories: Appellate Court sets date for oral arguments in Colonies case | Appellate court reaches tentative decision in Colonies case | State appeals court court could have major impact on Colonies case | Judge dismisses most felony counts against Burum; all four Colonies defendants enter not guilty pleas

The final decision by the state 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside will determine the trajectory of the criminal case in the county being tried by the state Attorney General and District Attorney’s offices. The case has been suspended for the last year awaiting the appellate court’s ruling.

In a tentative ruling in August, the appellate court determined that all but four criminal charges against developer Jeff Burum that were dismissed by San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville last August remain dismissed. The appellate court, however, determined a charge of misappropriation of public funds should be reinstated and a conflict of interest charge against Burum be dismissed.

Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel, the lead prosecutor in the case, argued for the reinstatement of bribery charges against Burum, which she said the law permits. She said Burum used coercive tactics to influence the other defendants to play ball.

The appellate court affirmed McCarville’s dismissal of the bribery charges against Burum, essentially agreeing that the law does not permit the alleged giver of a bribe to also be charged with aiding and abetting the receipt of a bribe in the same case.

Burum’s attorney, Stephen Larson, told the panel of justices that the law is clear on the bribery charges associated with his client.

“The giver cannot aid and abet the receiver,” Larson said.

As to the charge of misappropriation of public funds, in which Burum is alleged to have aided and abetted in influencing a $102 million legal settlement in his favor – Larson argued that there was nothing illegal about the settlement. He said the settlement was a lawful act carried out by the Board of Supervisors at the time.

“I think it’s too much of a stretch,” Larson said.

Burum and former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, who was president of the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA) at the time of the alleged crimes, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, stand charged in the case.

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