Prosecution rests its case for second jury in Colonies trial

SAN BERNARDINO >> The prosecution rested Thursday for defendant Jim Erwin in the Colonies bribery case, ending its presentation of nearly seven months of testimony about whether corruption influenced San Bernardino County Supervisors to approve in late 2006 a $102 million settlement that was favorable to a Rancho Cucamonga developer.

On Wednesday, prosecutors rested their case for defendants Jeff Burum, a Rancho Cucamonga developer, former county Supervisor Paul Biane and Mark Kirk, the former chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

That trio has a separate jury from Erwin, a former county assistant assessor.

The prosecution finished Erwin’s case after morning testimony from a single witness, political consultant David Ellis.

“Now you can applaud,” Judge Michael A. Smith told the Erwin case jurors Thursday morning, as he did with their fellow panelists on Wednesday afternoon.

Remaining for the marathon trial, which was originally forecast to end in early July: Defense motions to dismiss, which are set for late next week; defense witness testimony projected to start July 12 and end by month’s end; and closing arguments scheduled for mid-August.

Prosecutors from the District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices are jointly prosecuting the case.

They allege Kirk, Biane and former defendant Bill Postmus each took $100,000 bribes, which were reported as campaign contributions from Burum to gain approval for the $102 million court settlement over flood control work at Colonies Partners’ 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.

The prosecution’s case has depended primarily on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of Postmus, a former county assessor and his former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman.

Both men struck plea bargains and agreed to cooperate in the criminal investigation to avoid harsher sentences. Postmus was elected assessor in 2006. He was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when it approved the Colonies settlement 3-2 in November of that year.

Aleman and Postmus were key witnesses for the prosecution, but defense attorneys attacked their credibility during trial, poking holes in their testimony including Aleman’s varying accounts of meetings he said he attended with Postmus and Burum in 2006, encounters with private investigators outside his residence.


Postmus, whose affiliated PACs received a total of $100,000 from Colonies Partners in June 2007, insisted during his eight-plus days on the witness stand that he never considered the contributions to political action committees a bribe, that Burum never crossed the line into bribery, and he knew nothing of the PAC contributions until after the settlement.

All the defendants have denied any wrongdoing. They said the contributions from Colonies Partners, where Burum is one of the managing members, were public donations to legal PACs and were part of the Colonies’ attempts to mend fences after the contentious legal dispute, and were available online for public review.


More to come.