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Torres introduces legislation to aid prosecution of public bribery cases

Senator Norma Torres
Senator Norma TorresCourtesy of Senator Norma Torres

Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona) introduced a reform package aimed at those who bribe public officials and those public officials who accept the bribes. Senate Bill 950 changes the statute of limitations so that it does not commence until the crime is committed, thus allowing prosecutors ample time to investigate and bring perpetrators to justice. Current law does not allow for prosecution if the crimes are not discovered within three years of being committed.

Torres took up the cause after the $102 million Colonies settlement in San Bernardino County, which the District Attorney says was tainted by bribery and extortion. Jeff Burum, a local developer and Colonies partner, along with former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane, former chief of staff to San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, Mark Kirk, and former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin are awaiting trial in the bribery/extortion scheme.

“I am shocked by what happened in the Colonies case,” said Senator Torres. “The case serves as an example of why we need stronger statutes. Bribing a public official is a serious crime that should be heard in court regardless of how long ago the offense occurred.”

According to a press release issued today, Torres collaborated with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and State Attorney General’s Office. Those agencies are working together in the current prosecution.

SB 951, the second bill in the package, requires prosecution for conspiracy to commit a crime to be commenced within the time required for the commencement of prosecution for the underlying crime. SB 952 prohibits an individual from aiding or abetting a public officer or person, and expands penalties to also apply to those individuals who willfully aid or abet.

Torres represents the 32nd Senate District which includes the cities Colton, Fontana, Montclair, Ontario, Rialto and San Bernardino along with the unincorporated communities of Bloomington and Muscoy in San Bernardino County and the entire City of Pomona in Los Angeles County.