After the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the defendants’ petitions for writs of mandate, counsel for the Colonies Four defendants appealed to the California Supreme Court. The court’s decision of whether or not to review is due no later than Dec. 26, 2014.
Colonies Four defendants Jeff Burum, Jim Erwin, Mark Kirk and Paul Biane are accused of a long list of felonies in connection with the $102 million Colonies settlement with the County of San Bernardino, including bribery and accepting a bribe. Superior Court Judge Michael Smith recently denied most of the motions by defense attorneys to dismiss the case so the defendants filed writs, which were carded (denied) almost immediately by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Burum is accused of bribing public officials to obtain three votes for the landmark settlement. Erwin allegedly acted as a middleman, threatening two board members with exposure of personal issues, if they did not vote for the settlement. He is also accused of not properly reporting a Rolex, private jet trip and prostitute allegedly paid for by Burum as a reward after the settlement was finalized.
Kirk served as chief of staff to Fourth District Supervisor Gary Ovitt. He is accused of taking a bribe to convince Ovitt to vote for the settlement. Biane was the Second District Supervisor and is accused of accepting a bribe, among other felonies.
Another recent development in the case has left many wondering what is going on. Both Kirk’s and Biane’s attorneys were relieved and attorneys were appointed for them. Insiders say that one or both of their personal attorneys were offered a court appointment and declined. At this point no one is sure if that was a strategy to delay the case or one or both of the other of the private attorneys no longer wants their names further sullied due to the actions of one co-defendant, Jim Erwin.
Erwin operates a local blog where, until recently, he allowed his followers to intimidate and threaten anyone involved with the case. Erwin, who is known to use pseudonyms and talk to himself in local forums, is also thought to have used such means in this situation as a way to disparage prosecutors, threaten and intimidate witnesses and accuse judges of corruption.
In one exchange, a “reader” referred to Supervising Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandal as “boneable” and a “dyke.” In other comments, district attorney staff members were threatened with having their bar cards taken away, retirements garnished, and criminal charges filed. They even pushed the envelope with comments and borderline threats against an FBI agent and his wife as well as major witnesses in the case, the latter of which bordered on threatening their civil rights.
After a period of quiet, as recently as last week, Erwin was at it again, attacking San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos over his personal life. Case watchers wonder why a defendant would continue to antagonize those who are prosecuting him and hearing his case, thus the rumors and speculation that attorneys for Kirk and Biane are simply tired of the circus the Colonies defense case has become and wanted out.
In addition to appeals mentioned above, the prosecution also filed an appeal in the case. That appeal is in the briefing stage at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside. No matter what happens with any of the appeals, few expects the case to go to trial within the next year.