A former federal judge who presided over several high- profile cases in Riverside will represent an Inland Empire real estate developer set to be arraigned Friday on multiple felony charges tied to a bribery scheme involving officials in San Bernardino County.
Former Judge Stephen G. Larson is the lead counsel for Jeffrey Scott Burum, one of four people identified last month in a 29-count indictment stemming from an investigation into allegations of bribery, embezzlement, extortion and misappropriation of funds.
Burum is slated to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday at San Bernardino County Superior Court. He is free on bond.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Burum, the managing partner at Colonies Partners of Rancho Cucamonga, reportedly sought to obtain a $102 million property dispute settlement from the county by arranging $100,000 bribes, overseas trips, meals and entertainment for supervisors and people close to them.
Prosecutors say that in 2006, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 for a settlement to resolve Colonies Partners’ lawsuit challenging the county’s claims to easement rights over a tract of land in the middle of a retail and housing development in Upland
Former board Chairman William John Postmus pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy, embezzlement and conflict-of-interest charges related to the case.
He is cooperating with prosecutors.
Burum’s co-defendants are former Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor James Erwin and Supervisor Gary Ovitt’s former chief of staff, Mark Kirk.
Ovitt has not been charged.
Larson was put on the case immediately after joining Los Angeles-based law firm Arent Fox on Monday, according to the firm.
He left the bench in November 2009, citing the inability of his approximately $170,000 annual salary to support his wife and seven children.
Larson’s salary and benefits package from Arent Fox were not disclosed.
The former jurist presided over back-to-back cases in 2008 that generated publicity.
The first, a civil suit pitting toy manufacturing giant Mattel against family-owned MGA Entertainment, stemmed from Mattel’s claims that MGA had committed intellectual property violations by using one of Mattel’s doll designers to develop the highly popular Bratz dolls.
A jury found in favor of Mattel which led to an appeal by MGA, which faced paying a $99 million damage award to its larger rival and discontinuing the Bratz line.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the jury’s decision, paving the way for a second trial in Los Angeles, resulting in a win for MGA.
Larson also presided over the trial of former U.S. Marine Sgt. Jose Luis Nazario, accused of executing two enemy combatants during the November 2004 battle for Fallujah, Iraq. Nazario was believed to be the first former American serviceman tried in a civilian court for actions on the battlefield.
A jury deliberated less than a day before acquitting him.
The following year, Larson was judge in the non-jury trial of U.S. v. Duros, which arose from the federal government’s attempt to shut down the Desert Mobile Home Park — better known as “Duroville” in Thermal. The facility, occupied by about 2,000 migrant workers and their families, was condemned as a threat to their health and safety.
Larson repeatedly expressed concerns about the “humanitarian crisis” that might ensue if Duroville was closed. He put the park in receivership, appointing trustees to rehabilitate it by using public funds.