Why the last Beaumont corruption case defendant wants charges dismissed
The last defendant in the Beaumont corruption case wants a judge to throw his charges out, saying he was wrongly denied a speedy preliminary hearing and that prosecutors have dragged their feet in producing evidence.
The original May 2016 complaint named seven former Beaumont officials, including the onetime city manager, planning director, economic development director, finance director, public works director, and police chief. All have pleaded guilty to various charges between October and December of last year.
The case against remaining defendant Joseph Aklufi, who served as Beaumont’s city attorney, is based on “paper-thin” allegations, the “weakest” in the case. And prosecutors have not yet produced what they have described as “hundreds of thousands of pages” that show Aklufi’s alleged guilt, the motion to dismiss claims.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s office is due to file a response Wednesday, Jan 10. The motion will be heard by Superior Court Judge Mac R. Fisher on Jan. 17.
Aklufi was denied a request to have an immediate preliminary hearing three times after he entered a not-guilty plea in early February 2017 to an amended complaint, defense attorney Stephen Larson wrote in the motion. The preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 22.
California appellate courts have ruled a defendant’s right to a preliminary hearing within at least two months of entering a not-guilty plea is absolute if not waived, regardless of the complexity of the case or whether co-defendants have relinquished the hearing deadline, both elements of the Beaumont case, Larson wrote.
Aklufi wanted the hearing as soon as possible because of the perceived weakness of six embezzlement counts against him, the motion said. “He wanted to expose the District Attorney’s allegations against him for exactly what they are — baseless,” the motion says.
A preliminary hearing is held without a jury. A judge weighs whether evidence against a defendant is strong enough to proceed to trial. Before the hearing, prosecutors must hand over to defendants the evidence they have against them, in a process called discovery.