Bail Lifted For All Four Defendants In the Colonies Settlement Bribery Prosecution

The four defendants in the Colonies Settlement Corruption case will continue to be prohibited from leaving the country but have now had their bail lifted.
Judge Michael Smith agreed to allow Paul Biane, Jeff Burum, Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk to remain free on their own recognizance as the proceedings, related to  what was once characterized by former California Attorney General and current Governor Jerry Brown as “the most appalling corruption case in decades, certainly in the history of San Bernardino County and maybe California itself,” languish in the pre-trial stage nearly a year after a superseding indictment was handed down by a grand jury.
Smith’s granting of the request by the defendants’ on April 20 freed them from having to pay an annual bond premium. Initially bond was set at $10 million for Burum and $2 million for Biane, Erwin and Kirk. It was subsequently reduced to $500,000 for Burum, $250,000 for Biane and Erwin and $100,000 for Kirk.
In February 2010, Erwin and former county supervisor Bill Postmus were indicted on extortion, bribery and conspiracy charges relating to the $102 million payment the board of supervisors conferred on the Colonies Partners in November 2006. The payout was ostensibly made to settle a lawsuit the Colonies Partners had brought against the county over flood control issues at the Colonies at San Antonio and Colonies Crossroads residential and commercial subdivisions in northeastern Upland.  Both Postmus and Erwin initially maintained their innocence but in March 2011 Postmus entered guilty pleas on 14 separate counts relating to that case and his later activities as county assessor. He agreed to testify against others involved in the alleged criminal conspiracy. In May 2011, a superseding indictment was handed down, renaming Erwin as a defendant and charging Biane, Burum and Kirk, who had been identified as unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators in the February 2010 indictment.
According to the indictment, Burum, one of two managing principals in the Colonies Partners, employed Erwin, a former treasurer and president of the county sheriff’s deputies union, as a consultant in the effort to settle the lawsuit. The indictment alleges that Erwin worked with Patrick O’Reilly, a public relations consultant working for the Colonies Partners, to fashion mailers, known as ‘political hit pieces’ that revealed that Postmus, then the chairman of the board of supervisors and the chairman of the county Republican Central Committee who was engaged in a campaign for county assessor, was a drug-addicted homosexual and that Biane, the co-chairman of the county board of supervisors and co-chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, was on the brink of personal bankruptcy. According to the indictment, Burum and Erwin withheld those mailers, but threatened to post them during the 2006 election season, an act tantamount to extortion. After Postmus, Biane and supervisor Gary Ovitt  in November 2006 voted to approve the $102 million payout to the Colonies Partners over the dissenting votes of supervisor Josie Gonzales and then-supervisor Dennis Hansberger, Burum over the next seven months made two separate $50,000 contributions to two political action committees controlled by Postmus, and separate $100,000 contributions to political action committees controlled by Biane, Erwin and Kirk. Kirk was at that time Ovitt’s chief-of-staff. Prosecutors allege those contributions were bribes made in exchange for the approval of the settlement payout.
According to former federal judge Stephen Larson, Burum’s lawyer, his client and the three other defendants have proven they are committed to establishing their innocence and they represent no flight risk.
“These defendants have demonstrated they are very vigorously dedicated to staying here and proving their innocence,” he said.
Deputy district attorney Lewis Cope, the lead prosecutor for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office on the case, did not object to the extinguishing of bail.
There have been several delays in the case’s progression toward trial, including filings with the state appeals court by prosecutors seeking to reestablish some of the charges that were dismissed by the trial court in response to a defense demurrer motion as well as filings by defense attorneys seeking dismissal of the remaining charges

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