Postmus Serving Time In State Prison Instead Of County Jail

Former San Bernardino County Supervisor and Assessor Bill Postmus is now incarcerated at North Kern State Prison, where it is anticipated he will serve at least three months and perhaps more of his three-year prison sentence.
In March 2011, Postmus pleaded guilty to 15 separate criminal charges as part of a plea bargain, ten of which were felonies growing out of a bribery and kickback scheme relating to one of the last votes he cast as a supervisor in 2006, four felonies which entailed the misuse of his office while he was county assessor and a single misdemeanor narcotics charge. Those pleas came more than two years after his once-promising political career had ended in ignominy and scandal.
In 2000, when he was then 29, Postmus had been elected to the board of supervisors as the representative of the First District, which then encompassed almost the entirety of the county’s desert area. He was the sixth youngest supervisor in county history. Four years later, he was chosen by his board colleagues to serve as board chairman, the second youngest person to ever hold that position. The same year, 2004, he was selected to serve as the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, the de facto head of the GOP in the county, a perch from which he had control over the purse strings of the local Party of Lincoln’s campaign war chest. He held tremendous sway in determining who was elected to an overwhelming number of political offices in the county. Two years later, in 2006, he was elected county assessor. Less than two years into his tenure as assessor, the county’s highest-ranking taxing authority, events overtook him. His image as a confirmed and uncompromising conservative Republican dedicated to family values, law, order and protecting taxpayers from liberal compromise was shattered by a series of revelations with regard to his severe addiction to methamphetamine, his promiscuous homosexual lifestyle and the degree to which he had been blackmailed and his votes and actions as a public official manipulated as he endeavored to keep those secrets under wraps. In an excruciatingly drawn-out fashion, he imploded over the last half of 2008, capped by his February 2009 resignation from his position as county assessor.
In June 2009 he was charged with utilizing his position and authority as county assessor along with the assessor’s office’s personnel, facilities and equipment for partisan political purposes. He entered not guilty pleas to those charges. In February 2010 he and one-time San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies Union President Jim Erwin were charged with involvement in an extortion and bribery conspiracy relating to the board of supervisors’ 3-to-2 November 2006 vote in which he and his board colleagues Paul Biane and Gary Ovitt prevailed. That vote settled a lawsuit filed against the county by the Colonies Partners in 2002 by conferring a $102 million settlement on the plaintiff. In the criminal complaint filed against Postmus and Erwin, Colonies Partners co-managing principals Dan Richards and Jeff Burum, Colonies Partners public relations consultant Patrick O’Reilly, Supervisor Paul Biane and Mark Kirk, who had been employed as Supervisor Gary Ovitt’s chief of staff, were referenced as unidentified and uncharged co-conspirators. Both Postmus and Erwin pleaded not guilty to those charges. Eventually, however, Postmus was worn down by the pending charges, and 13 months after he and Erwin had been charged, in March 2011, he entered guilty pleas on all of the counts against him relating to corruption on his part while he was in office along with a single drug possession count. An element of his plea agreement was that he would cooperate with prosecutors in their efforts to bring to justice others involved in the conspiracy and criminal wrongdoing he was admitting to.
A month later, in April 2011, Postmus was the star witness before a grand jury. It was in some measure upon the testimony that Postmus provided that in May 2011 that grand jury issued a 29-count indictment of Burum, Erwin, Biane, and Kirk. The trial for Burum, Erwin, Biane and Kirk was delayed nearly six years until it was initiated two years ago today, on January 4, 2017. Testimony and the presentation of evidence in that trial lasted nearly eight months. Postmus was a key witness for the prosecution in that trial, testifying over the course of two weeks in May 2017. Under direct examination by Supervising Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope, Postmus testified that Erwin, who was then working as a consultant to Burum and the Colonies Partners, had blackmailed and extorted him into voting in support of the settlement by threatening to expose his homosexuality and drug use, and that over the course of the roughly seven months after the settlement was made, he, Erwin, Biane and Kirk had been rewarded with $100,000 each in the form of donations made to them by Burum through the Colonies Partners to political action committees each of the four had set up for themselves and controlled. However, under cross examination by Jennifer Keller, one of the attorneys representing Burum, Postmus went sideways. Postmus yielded to Keller’s suggestion that he just might have been led into implicating himself, Burum and the others in the scheme after he was pressured by aggressive investigators with the district attorney’s office who had exploited his vulnerabilities, in particular his drug-addled and highly suggestible state, to plant false ideas in his mind that he had then recounted to them during further interrogations, before the grand jury and under Cope’s direct examination. Ultimately, Burum, Biane and Kirk were acquitted of the charges against them and the jury hearing the case against Erwin deadlocked and was unable to return a unanimous verdict.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2017 trial, over which Judge Smith presided, Postmus himself came before Judge Smith, before whom he had pleaded guilty in 2011, for sentencing. When Smith gave an indication that he was contemplating sentencing Postmus to two years in state prison, Postmus, having anticipated a less stiff sentence, sought to withdraw his pleas pertaining to his involvement in the Colonies lawsuit settlement matter as well as to the malfeasance in office he admitted to while serving as county assessor. In a motion filed on Postmus’ behalf, his attorney, Jeffrey Lawrence, last year had asked Judge Smith to vacate his client’s guilty pleas and grant him a trial in which a jury would hear the cases against him. After six days of testimony in November 2018 including that from Postmus and his previous lawyers, Richard Farquhar and Stephen Levine, Judge Smith denied the motion to rescind the plea on November 14. The following day, November 15, 2018, seven weeks and one day ago, Lawrence presented an oral argument that Postmus’s crimes were de minimis in nature and that he deserved no prison time and either little jail time or immediate probation. Supervising California Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel countered that Postmus had conspired with others to defraud the public and divert over $100 million in taxpayer money to his co-conspirators and that he was so steeped in a culture of corruption that he did not recognize he was being bribed when he was rewarded by the recipient of the $102 million with a $100,000 political donation for doing so.
Judge Smith, after making a finding that Postmus had cooperated with prosecutors in anticipation of a lenient sentence by testifying truthfully before the grand jury and under direct examination at trial, nevertheless ruled that Postmus had knowingly falsified his testimony upon cross examination while feigning memory loss and had therefore failed to live up to the terms of his plea bargain. In accordance with what he said was the judicial discretion set forth in the 2011 guilty plea Postmus had entered, Judge Smith sentenced him to three years in state prison.
Though the prosecution wanted Postmus incarcerated at once, Smith granted him 15 days to get his affairs in order, requiring that he report to his courtroom at 8:30 a.m. on November 30. Postmus dutifully showed up and was taken into custody. He was initially confined in the custody of the county sheriff at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, and there were reports that he would be permitted to serve the entirety of his sentence at a county facility, either at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore, the High Desert Detention Center in Adelanto or the West Valley Detention Center.
According to Lawrence, Postmus’s attorney, his client, because of the non-violent nature of his offenses, qualified under 2011’s prison realignment law as a “triple-non offender” who would thus be eligible to serve his time within a county facility. The prison realignment law corresponded with efforts to differentiate between serious criminal activity and lesser non-violent offenses and was intended to relieve overcrowding issues in state-run penitentiaries and prisons by having so called “triple-non offenders” serve their time in county-run institutions. A triple-non offender is one whose crimes are defined as “non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious.”
Ultimately, however, it was determined that one of the crimes Postmus had admitted to participating in – misappropriation of public funds – was deemed serious. Thus he is not eligible to be housed in a county facility under the 2011 prison realignment legislation.
The Sentinel has learned that Postmus is currently incarcerated at North Kern State Prison.
North Kern State Prison is a medium-security all-male prison facility located in Delano. It has been in operation since 1993, and houses over 5,000 inmates, which is more than 200 percent of its design capacity of 2,447. More than 3,400 of the inmates at North Kern are housed in the reception center, awaiting transfer to another state prison. Close to 1,600 permanent or mainline inmates live in a separate part of the prison. Inmates are separated by security and custody levels upon arriving at North Kern. North Kern is considered a reception center for incoming inmates who are not destined to remain there for the entirety of their sentences. These transitory inmates remain there three to four months while their criminal and health records, physiological and psychological makeup and social needs are assessed and they are assigned elsewhere. All North Kern inmates have opportunities to engage in educational programs, which include small engine repair and electrical work on the vocational side and adult basic education, high school/GED and English language skills on the academic side.
Mainline inmates are considered less dangerous than incoming/reception inmates being evaluated at the reception center and are provided with certain privileges, including in some cases working outside the prison walls. Out of the 1,500 plus mainline inmates, 900 are kept behind an electrical fence and the other 600-plus inmates, who are deemed honor inmates, are enclosed by a regular fence. Mainline inmates participate in the provision of support services throughout the prison, including doing kitchen, laundry, education, and library library work, and occasionally engage in highway maintenance or litter clean-up as well as working within a nearby factory warehouse. Mainline inmates live in dorms and have their own yard separate from the reception center. In addition to prison jobs, mainline inmates are eligible for education and reentry programs.
Most reception center inmates are classified as custody level IV (high security) prisoners and are housed in double-bunked cells within four cellblocks behind an electrical fence. A few reception center inmates, known to be low risk offenders, are permitted to stay in dorms.
With good behavior credit in the California state penal system, Postmus could be released after 18 months.
-Mark Gutglueck

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