Colonies warrants, affidavits unsealed for defense lawyers

Nearly a dozen search warrants and their affidavits served by investigators probing the Colonies Partners LP $102million settlement with San Bernardino County were ordered unsealed Monday for defense lawyers.

Lawyers for Jeff Burum, co-managing partner of Colonies Partners LP, have been trying to secure release of the warrants since June as part of their effort to fight the criminal charges against their client.

Those charges are part of a sweeping criminal probe of alleged county corruption.

Judge Michael A. Smith granted the request Monday to unseal the warrants and affidavits to the defense lawyers at a hearing in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Prosecutors told the court they had copies of the 11 search warrants and their affidavits, dated from Dec. 2, 2008, to Oct. 22, 2010, for the defense at the District Attorney’s Office.

“These were some of the very early searches done in the investigation,” Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope explained later outside of court.

He would not reveal the locations where the warrants were served.

When the judge initially unsealed the warrants and affidavits, Burum’s lawyer, Stephen Larson, expressed concern about their contents, saying they could include privileged or confidential matter.

Smith gave the defense until Nov. 4 to review the documents and prepare any motions to redact or argue against their release. If no opposition is heard that day, the warrants will be released publicly, Smith said.

Contacted later Monday, Larson had no comment about the judge’s ruling to release the warrants.

On May 9, the San Bernardino County criminal Grand Jury indicted Burum, former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, as part of the county’s investigation into the landmark settlement.

The four defendants, who deny any wrongdoing, are accused of conspiring to secure the settlement in the developer’s favor in exchange for bribes and political favors.

Burum’s lawyers sought the warrants as part of a continued challenge of what they have previously described as the prosecution’s one-sided case.

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville dismissed five of the counts against Burum at an Aug. 19 hearing, and the defense has been working on the remaining two charges: conspiracy and conflict of interest.

He also dropped one count of misappropriation of public funds against each of the other three defendants.

Cope said the warrants couldn’t be turned over earlier because they were under judicial seal, he said.

Monday’s actions came while a stay remains ordered in the criminal proceedings, as state and local prosecutors continue their appeal of McCarville’s Aug. 19 ruling.

Prosecutors seek the reinstatement of the dismissed charges, while defense attorneys want more dismissals.

The county’s settlement with Colonies Partners ended nearly five years of legal battle over who was responsible for paying for flood-control improvements at the developer’s 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland, Colonies at San Antonio and Colonies Crossroads, respectively.

Staff Writer Joe Nelson contributed to this report.

mike.cruz@inlandnewspapers.com, @sbcourts

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