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‘A lot of their evidence relied on a liar,’ Colonies jurors say

By in Press Enterprise on August 29, 2017

By Joe Nelson, Richard DeAtley

The jurors of three defendants in the Colonies bribery trial listened to nearly eight months of testimony, but spent a little more than a day deliberating before reaching not guilty verdicts Monday on all counts stemming from a $102 million settlement in 2006 between the county and a developer that prosecutors claimed was corrupt.

Former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane, developer Jeff Burum and Mark Kirk, a former chief of staff for one-time county Supervisor Gary Ovitt listened as they were acquitted on bribery, conflict of interest and improper influence of a public official charges, their faces reflecting astonishment and then relief when they realized their years-long criminal case was over.

Jurors who spoke after the verdict said the panel — it was the same 12 throughout the trial — quickly concluded the prosecution’s case, whether exhibits or testimony, came nowhere close to convincing them beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants were guilty.

Mitchell Gibson, who served as Juror No. 3 for Biane, Burum and Kirk, said Monday he was ready to vote on a verdict as soon as he entered the jury room.

“For the amount of time the prosecution had to make this case, they did a horrible, horrible job of presenting it,” said Gibson, 56, of Rialto. “If there was proof that these men were guilty, I’m thinking that they should have shown that right off the bat.”

“It was all unanimous from the beginning… There was not enough evidence.” said juror Daniel Morris, 31, of Redlands.

Gibson said jurors believed they were presented evidence they did not feel was germane to the case and did not prove anything.

He said the jury was unwilling to comply with Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel’s request during final arguments that they review all the exhibits and piece together in the deliberation room a […]    

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