Candidate Jason Anderson, for San Bernardino County District Attorney, celebrates an early lead, as election results started coming in Tuesday, with friends and family at his home in Upland, CA., Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (Staff photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, The Sun/SCNG)

By Joe Nelson | | San Bernardino Sun
Published: June 6, 2018 at 7:08 pm | Updated: June 7, 2018 at 12:11 am

After 16 years, San Bernardino County has a new District Attorney – former prosecutor-turned criminal defense attorney Jason Anderson, whose narrow victory over incumbent Mike Ramos in Tuesday’s primary means he will assume office in January.

Ramos conceded to Anderson Wednesday in a statement issued by his campaign manager, David Ellis.

“While the outcome is disappointing and certainly not what I intended, I recognize that the Office of the District Attorney is much larger than any individual. Join me in congratulating Jason Anderson who will take office in January 2019,” Ramos said in his statement. “Please offer your support as he takes on the important task of ensuring that justice is carried out and that the rights of victims are upheld.”

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, who has served as D.A. since 2002, was defeated in Tuesday’s primary by criminal defense attorney and former county prosecutor Jason Anderson. Anderson will assume office in January 2019.

Ramos did not return calls seeking further comment.

Anderson said in a telephone interview Wednesday he had already contacted the state bar to inform them he was elected District Attorney. And while he will not be assuming his elected office for another seven months, the transition from criminal defense attorney to top prosecutor is unique.

“My adversaries just became my new future colleagues,” Anderson said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“It’s a little unprecedented in terms of this transition and this dynamic.”

Since 2014, Anderson has run his own private practice in Rancho Cucamonga, next to West Valley Superior Court. Prior to that, he was a county prosecutor in the crimes against children unit, where he tried about 100 cases over 17 years. He is also a law professor at the University of La Verne College of Law, was an Ontario planning commissioner from 2000 to 2004, and served on the Ontario City Council from 2004 to 2008.

He said one of his first orders of business as District Attorney will be sitting down and meeting with all five county supervisors and county CEO Gary McBride. He also plans to form a community commission, composed of community leaders from each of the five supervisorial districts, that will meet quarterly. Anderson says he plans to provide information on cases his office has filed, or is prosecuting, and get feedback on how office resources could be better allocated.

Anderson said that as District Attorney he still plans to maintain a caseload in the pretrial stages to keep abreast of the cases that pour into the office and provide input on how they can be managed to improve efficiencies. He also plans to ensure that high-profile cases are scrutinized so that the facts support conviction.

“I’m going to be very involved in the deliberative process when there are big cases,” Anderson said. “I think I am going to bring a very valuable determination on those cases to determine if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Ramos’ defeat followed a series of failed high-profile corruption cases. The biggest was the Colonies case, in which wealthy Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum and three former top county officials stood accused of conspiring to fix a $102 million settlement in 2006 between the county and Burum’s Rancho Cucamonga investor group, Colonies Partners LP. The settlement ended nearly five years of heated legal battle over flood control improvements at Colonies Partners’ 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland, adjacent the 210 Freeway.

Prosecutors alleged bribery drove the settlement, but Burum and his three co-defendants – former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt — maintained their innocence from the start and insisted that the prosecution was politically motivated.

All four defendants were vindicated last August when, after a marathon 8-month trial, Burum, Biane and Kirk were acquitted. Erwin, who had a separate jury, had all charges dismissed a month later after his jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked. Prosecutors announced they did not want to retry Erwin due to “unresolvable witness problems.”

The former defendants are now suing Ramos, as well as other prosecutors and county officials, in federal court, alleging malicious prosecution and other civil rights violations.

“This is a great day for the people of San Bernardino County, who had grown weary of District Attorney Ramos’ record of failure and bad, politically-motived decisions,” Burum said in a statement Wednesday. He and his friend, Rancho Cucamonga developer Jim Previti, were among Anderson’s biggest financial supporters.

“I am proud of my support for Mr. Anderson for the betterment of our county, and clearly I wasn’t alone,” Burum said in his statement. “Voters have overwhelmingly agreed with Mr. Anderson’s vision for moving the District Attorney’s Office forward in fulfilling its mission to serve justice and protect the public.”

Burum’s attorney, Stephen G. Larson, also issued a statement, saying, “Jason Anderson is held in very high regard by the San Bernardino County legal community, and I am confident that his tenure as District Attorney will be marked by an abiding commitment to justice and fairness, coupled with a strong emphasis on integrity and accountability to all the people of our county.”

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