Let The Endless Delays Begin

The legal team representing former Adelanto City Councilman Jermaine Wright, who is accused by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of arranging to receive a bribe while in office and fixing to have his restaurant destroyed in an arson fire so he could collect on a $300,000 insurance policy he had on the structure that housed it, has been granted a six-month continuance to prepare for their client’s trial.
Wright had been scheduled to go before a jury beginning on August 14, some nine months and seven days after his November 7, 2017 arrest by the FBI. That arrest came roughly three weeks after Wright had been confronted by an FBI agent with evidence that agency had accumulated against him and the councilman agreed to cooperate with a continuation of the investigation into graft, bribery and fraud at Adelanto City Hall, including using a surreptitious recording device to capture statements from other city officials the FBI agents thought might implicate them in activity similar to that in which Wright was involved. Wright, however, violated the terms of that commitment by disclosing to one of his confidants, whom he did not know to be an FBI informant, that the probe was under way. In his exchange with the informant, Wright went so far as to solicit a mob-type “hit” on an undercover FBI agent who had posed as an arsonist in previous dialogue with Wright during which the councilman had given the agent a tour of his restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, assisted in the planning of the arson by providing a ladder for the undercover agent, discussed various tactics with regard to maximizing the damage and paid the undercover agent $1,500 to carry out the assignment.
Wright has asserted his innocence through his federal public defenders, Jeffrey Aaron and Angela Viramontes, during the legal process and, when he has surfaced publicly since his conditional release on bond in May, in his own statements. The evidence against him, however, is overwhelming. In addition to the material assembled by the undercover FBI agent who had taken on the persona of an arsonist, several encounters Wright had with another FBI agent who had convincingly represented himself as an applicant seeking to obtain a city permit to operate a marijuana transportation business were electronically monitored. In one of those, Wright told the FBI agent that he was willing to take money in exchange for helping to secure an “exemption” that would allow the transportation business to get up and running. At a later meeting, on October 6, 2017, the FBI agent provided Wright with two separate stacks of 100 $50 bills. When the exchange was made, Wright and the agent observed the nicety of suggesting that the money might be used by a non-profit charity Wright indicated he controlled. In reality, that non-profit entity did not exist.
Wright’s lawyers, despite the consideration that they have been working on his behalf since November, are completely unprepared to go to trial. Whatever leverage to make a favorable deal Wright may have once possessed in the form of his ability to assist federal authorities in their investigation evaporated when he angled to have one of the FBI agents knocked off prior to his being arrested and while he was still in a position to approach both Adelanto officials and those suspected of bribing them to see what evidence he might gather.
Hearing no objection from the U.S. Attorney’s office, U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal on July 9 consented to continuing the trial until February 26. Between now and then, it is anticipated that Aaron and Viramontes, together with their investigators and research staff, will be attempting to find some procedural or evidentiary fault in the way in which the FBI and then the U.S. Attorney’s Office proceeded against their client in an effort to have some or all of the evidence against him thrown out.
Mark Gutglueck

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