Norma Torres

Norma Torres has proposed legislation to address a loophole in bribery cases. (Courtesy Photo)

By Ryan Hagen, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 05/29/14, 7:05 PM PDT |

SACRAMENTO >> The state Senate on Thursday passed legislation that’s designed to close a “loophole” defendants in the $102 million Colonies corruption case are using to try to dismiss the charges in the case.

If it’s also approved by the Assembly, the first of the bills — SB 950 — would alter the statute of limitations for bribery offenses so that alleged bribery can be prosecuted until three years after it’s discovered. Current law only allows prosecution until three years after the offense occurred, said Sen. Norma Torres, who proposed the bills.

“What happened in the Colonies corruption case is shocking,” Torres said in a statement. “Whether someone is charged with bribery shouldn’t be a question of how long ago the offense occurred. Bribing a public official is a violation of public trust and a serious crime that should be heard in court regardless of how long ago the offense occurred.”

Defense attorneys in the far-reaching corruption case filed motions in January to dismiss the case, arguing that the statute of limitations had already lapsed when the grand jury indicted the four defendants on May 9, 2011.

Torres submitted her bills shortly afterward.

Judge Michael A. Smith is set to hear arguments on the request to dismiss July 23, and Torres’ legislation won’t directly affect the Colonies case, but it’s an admission that the defense is correct, said defense attorney Stephen Larson.

“This legislation confirms, as the attorney general has recognized, that the law at the time of indictment provides that these charges are time-barred,” Larson said. “While this new legislation may affect future cases, our constitution and fundamental due process prevents it from being applied retroactively.”

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