Scales of Justice

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 07/31/14, 12:21 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Day 6 of a motions hearing in the Colonies corruption case resumed Thursday with defense attorneys arguing that prosecutors engaged in misconduct and prosecutors arguing their chances at a fair trial were jeopardized when a former federal prosecutor was hired by the law firm representing a key defendant in the case.

Judge Michael A. Smith has already dismissed a key charge of conspiracy against the four defendants in the case – Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt. Smith has also ruled that prosecutors can amend the indictment to more firmly establish the timeline in which they had enough evidence to begin their investigation.

Smith on Thursday heard arguments from both sides on a dismissal motion in which defense attorneys allege investigators raided the defense camp when they seized roughly 500 pages of documents from an El Segundo-based private investigation firm, Thomas Dale & Associates, during a search of the premises on Jan. 31, 2013. The raid was in connection with an investigation into the alleged hacking of the cell phone account of former county Assessor and Colonies key witness Bill Postmus.

Prosecutors contend the investigation was independent of the Colonies case, until a file surfaced during the search bearing the names of Postmus and Stephen Larson, the defense attorney representing Burum in the case.

Burum’s attorneys argued that a different team of investigators, not the one working on the Colonies case, should have been assigned to the phone-hacking investigation to avoid conflict. The same team working the Colonies case was used to infiltrate the defense camp and gain an advantage in the Colonies prosecution, defense attorneys allege.

“They shouldn’t have been there at all. They should have had other investigators,” said Mary Andrues, Burum’s co-counsel, during Thursday’s court proceedings. She said the prosecution engaged in “outrageous conduct.”

Andrues showed an excerpt from a surveillance video from the lobby of Thomas Dale & Associates the day of the search. It showed district attorney investigator Eric Bremner and Deputy District Attorney Reza Sadeghi pouring over documents behind a desk. One investigator is seen hunkered next to the desk, opening files and thumbing through documents.

Called to testify, Bremner said at no time did he review the contents of any file, and the documents he was seen poring over in the video were merely thousands of pages of billing records, and that the file bearing Larson’s and Postmus’ name was handed off to the special master appointed to supervise the search and safeguard any documents protected under the attorney-client privilege.

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