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31 minutes to ‘not guilty’ in only case tried by DA challenger in 3 years

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The battle between San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and his challenger Deputy District Attorney Grover Merritt took an interesting turn this week. Merritt is taking hits over the sources of his campaign financing and his trial record.

Last Sept. 30, when Merritt announced his intention to run against his boss, he stated in a press release written by his campaign consultant Chris Jones, “As District Attorney, I will put strict limits on plea bargaining . . ..” But an analysis of his statistics suggests otherwise.

In response to a California Public Records Act request submitted to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office by Jim Rissmiller, a local political watchdog, the district attorney provided a list of 359 cases assigned to Merritt over the past five years. Of those, 221 have dispositions. A whopping 86 percent, or 189, were resolved through plea bargain; 26 were dismissed at Merritt’s request; 5 were lost by Merritt at the Preliminary Hearing stage; and 1 went to trial.

Merritt’s one trial, People v. Arredondo, FWV1202216 took place Jan. 14-16 of this year. The defendant, who previously served time in state prison, was accused of possessing ammunition illegally.

The results of that three-day jury file can be found on the court’s website. The minute order reads:

3:05 COURT INSTRUCTS ALTERNATE JURORS. DELIBERATIONS BEGIN
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3:36 JURY ADVISES COURT THAT THEY: HAVE REACHED A VERDICT
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3:50 WE THE JURY IN THE ABOVE-ENTITLED ACTION, FIND THE DEFENDANT, RUBEN ARREDONDO, NOT GUILTY, IN COUNT 1, A VIOLATION OF SECTION 30305(A)(1) PC.

It took 31 minutes from the time deliberations began until the paperwork was signed and the jury notified the court they had a verdict. A mere 45 minutes passed from the time the case went to the jury until the defendant was declared “not guilty” by a jury of his peers.

Dave Ellis, campaign consultant to Ramos, had this to say, “Grover has had a bad month. First, he decides it’s ethically acceptable to take over 80% of his campaign donations from associates and friends of a charged defendant, including his business partner/bar-owner, and his brother. Then Grover’s own attorney’s union sued him (and won) for lying on his ballot statement. Now his plea bargaining hypocrisy has been exposed. How can voters trust a guy with situational ethics that can’t find the truth.”

Chris Jones, campaign consultant to Merritt, does not provide press releases to this reporter.

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