Tuesday, September 3, 2002
Prosecutors Drop Charges Against San Bernardino County Supervisor
By J'AMY PACHECO, Staff Writer
The attorney representing San Bernardino County Supervisor Gerald “Jerry” Eaves on Friday called prosecutors’ dismissal of federal charges against his client “wonderful news.”
Attorney Donald Jordan said Thursday’s move by the U.S. Attorney’s Office was, “in retrospect,” not surprising.
“The case never was about Jerry,” Jordan opined. “It was about corruption, and they wanted a figurehead. So they chose the number one politician in the county and dragged him into it.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Moreton said Friday the decision was made to seek dismissal because 52 of the government’s 58 charges in the original indictment had been dismissed, and prosecutors want to file a new case including all of the dismissed charges. He said prosecutors also want to charge Eaves and businessman William “Shep” McCook together, but charges had been dropped against McCook.
Eaves was accused of accepting Las Vegas trips from McCook in exchange for his support of a project to place billboards at the intersection of I-215 and I-10, and for a subsequent sale of some of the billboards.
“We’re talking about trips,” Jordan observed, adding that Eaves’ “late disclosure” of the gifts was a matter only for the Fair Political Practices Commission. “To make it into a federal offense just to get publicity is a mistake. What happened [Thursday] serves as confirmation of that.”
“Our job is to prosecute federal crimes,” he pointed out. “We believe we have alleged violations of federal statutes.”
The charges against Eaves originated in San Bernardino County’s far-reaching corruption scandal. The federal charges were the last in a string of allegations against the supervisor; he was one of 22 individuals named in a civil suit filed by the county and was also faced charges filed by county prosecutors.
But Eaves—like most of his co-defendants—was dropped from the civil suit after paying financial restitution of more than $6,000 to the county.
The “accusation” filed by San Bernardino County prosecutors was turned over to the state Attorney General’s Office after revelations that prosecutors provided information about their investigation of Eaves to a political foe who unsuccessfully sought the supervisor’s seat.
Eaves was accused of accepting other trips from entities that did a substantial amount of bond business with the county. He pled no contest to those charges, agreed to pay a $20,000 fine, and was placed on probation for three years. He was also barred from running for office for four years.
Federal prosecutors have faced an uphill battle in their quest to prosecute Eaves. In July, they sought to have their own charges dropped, hoping to seek a new indictment, after a federal judge dismissed charges against Eaves’ co-defendant, McCook. The request was denied by a federal judge in Los Angeles, who also dropped bribery charges against Eaves last month, saying the matters did not belong in federal court.
Prosecutors sought to delay a Sept. 3 trial date for the six remaining charges of mail fraud while awaiting an appeal of Judge Manuel Real’s decision to toss the bribery charges. The delay was denied.
Jordan said the fact that federal prosecutors refuse to go forward with their case without McCook as a co-defendant “proves” that “they don’t have a case.”
Jordan speculated that federal prosecutors wanted to try the two men together in the hopes that if McCook was found guilty, Eaves would be found “guilty by association.”
“If—and I make no representations about what I think what a case involving McCook would or wouldn’t show—if testimony showed that McCook did give people money, as some releases have shown, and if Jerry knew Shep, it would taint Jerry,” Jordan said. “I’ve been saying for months that they are after him for guilt by association. If they bring down McCook, Jerry is guilty by association.”
Moreton called the possibility of his appeal being denied “extremely remote.”
“Given how remote it is, I’d rather not speculate,” he said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company