The Colonies Corruption Case, which has been dragging along now for over six years, may finally be coming to an inglorious end.
The case, which then Attorney General Jerry Brown called “the most appalling corruption case in decades, certainly in the history of San Bernardino County and maybe California itself,” has been slowly unraveling as most charges have been unceremoniously dismissed by numerous judges including the linchpin conspiracy charge that went all the way up to the California Supreme Court on desperate appeals by prosecutors.
In January of this year, Superior Court Judge Michael Smith denied a defense motion to dismiss the case based on newly discovered evidence that the prosecution knowingly and intentionally withheld information from the Grand Jury that would have likely exonerated the defendants.
Prosecutors presented former and current county attorneys as witnesses making the claim that the $102 million Colonies settlement was an outrageous gift of public funds, but manipulated the testimony to specifically exclude exculpatory testimony from County Counsel Attorneys Ruth Stringer and Mitchell Norton. County Attorneys had changed their positions and were now arguing in civil court that the settlement was a good deal for taxpayers and that the Colonies Partners could have received as much as $325 Million if the case had gone to a jury trial.
The County of San Bernardino has already won numerous judgements against its insurers, still holds the position that the Colonies settlement was legitimate, is still litigating that position to this day and has taken the position that they expect to recover the entire $102 million.
While Judge Smith did state that the prosecutors’ actions were “troubled” and that they should have presented this evidence to the Grand Jury, he stated that it did not rise to the level of attorney misconduct and therefore denied the defense motion.
On February 22nd, Defense Attorney and former Federal Judge Stephen Larson filed a petition for a Writ of Mandate with the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside requesting a reversal of Judge Smith’s decision based on numerous “errors” by the trial court.
In what may be a telling order, the Fourth District Court of Appeals, “Good cause appearing therefor,” has invited the prosecution to file a response to Larson’s petition for a writ of mandate, stating clearly that “unless good cause is shown, the court may issue a preemptory writ.”
It’s not as if the Court of Appeals isn’t familiar with the Colonies case in its numerous criminal and civil legal variations. The cases have been before the court numerous times over the past few years, with nearly all the decisions favoring the defendants and/or the legitimacy of the settlement. They may be growing somewhat weary that this case, now in its sixth year and scheduled for a seventh hasn’t been properly adjudicated by either the lower courts or the prosecution.
Of course, when prosecutors have to “game” the Grand Jury process, withhold evidence from the Grand Jury favorable to the defense, fail to disclose their knowledge of this evidence, and then deny they knew of it before the trial court judge, anyone can see the serious pattern of misconduct purposely engaged by prosecuting attorneys.
The prosecution has until March 30th to respond to the appeals court, if they choose to do so. What more could they say in their response that hasn’t already been made to the trial court is a large question. Judge Smith already stated he was “troubled” by the actions of prosecutors. The fact that he refused to dismiss, based upon this prosecutorial misconduct is what the appeals court is reviewing.
Judge Smith refused to call it misconduct, but most people of fair mind whether attorneys or not, know that is exactly what has occurred in this case. Perhaps it is time for the Appeals Court to put the stake through the heart of this vampire case, it’s been walking around dead for a very long time already.