Judge re­jects bid for new trial for Mex­i­can busi­ness­man

José Azano was guilty of steer­ing il­le­gal con­tri­bu­tions in San Diego may­oral race.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Greg Mo­ran greg.mo­ran @sdunion­tri­bune.com Twit­ter: @greg­moran Mo­ran writes for the San Diego Union-Tri­bune.

ty­coon José Susumo Azano Mat­sura, con­victed of steer­ing about $600,000 in il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions in the 2012 San Diego mayor’s race, won’t get a new trial, a fed­eral judge de­cided Fri­day.

U.S. District Judge Michael Anello also re­jected a batch of post-trial mo­tions filed by Azano and code­fen­dants Ravneet Singh and Marco Polo Cortes. He is still con­sid­er­ing a new trial mo­tion from Azano’s son, Ed­ward Susumo Azano Hester, and could rule on that at a hear­ing Tues­day.

The two Azanos and Singh were con­victed by a fed­eral jury last sum­mer for con­spir­acy to make il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and for mak­ing those con­tri­bu­tions.

The older Azano was con­victed of 36 charges, Singh of four and the younger Azano of two.

The jury ac­quit­ted the younger Azano of six charges and dead­locked on six oth­ers. Cortes was ac­quit­ted of four charges, but the jury could not reach a unan­i­mous verdict on one other.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors charged José Azano with or­ches­trat­ing a scheme to fun­nel cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to two may­oral can­di­dates, Demo­cratic Rep. Bob Fil­ner and Re­pub­li­can Dist. Atty. Bon­nie Du­ma­nis.

The money came in the form of straw do­na­tions and con­tri­bu­tions made to in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tees via ei­ther a shell cor­po­ra­tion of Azano’s or through busi­nesses owned by a La Jolla lux­ury car dealer who was a friend and as­so­ciate of Azano.

As a for­eign na­tional with no le­gal sta­tus in the U.S., Azano was pro­hib­ited from par­tic­i­pat­ing in do­mes­tic elec­tions.

Knut John­son, Azano’s lawyer, ar­gued Fri­day that his client was en­ti­tled to a new trial be­cause of a se­ries of mis­takes and blun­ders made by at­tor­ney Michael Wynne, who rep­re­sented Azano at trial.

He blamed Wynne for fail­ing to in­tro­duce ev­i­dence John­son said would show Azano did not know he was pro­hib­ited, as a for­eign citizen, from con­tribut­ing to po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns. He also ar­gued that Wynne botched ex­am­i­na­tions of wit­nesses and tor­pe­doed Azano’s case by his own com­ments dur­ing open­ing state­ments and clos­ing ar­gu­ments to the jury.

But Anello ruled that de­ter­min­ing if Wynne had legally blun­dered would prob­a­bly re­quire mul­ti­ple hear­ings delv­ing into why the lawyer made his de­ci­sions. If he was found to be de­fi­cient, the court would have to de­cide if the out­come of the case would have been dif­fer­ent, the judge said. Such an in­quiry is more ap­pro­pri­ate for an ap­peal, he said.

The judge also again turned down a re­quest from John­son to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from pros­e­cu­tors about why for­mer U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy re­cused her­self from the case. Nei­ther Duffy nor pros­e­cu­tors have dis­closed the rea­son.

John­son ar­gued Fri­day that text mes­sages ex­changed by Duffy and Du­ma­nis be­fore and dur­ing the trial — which were not in­tro­duced at the trial — again raised the is­sue of why the U.S. at­tor­ney re­cused her­self. Du­ma­nis, who was iden­ti­fied in FBI re­ports as a “sub­ject” of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, tes­ti­fied at the trial.

Anello said the re­cusal in­for­ma­tion is pro­tected from be­ing turned over by at­tor­ney work prod­uct and delibMex­i­can er­a­tive process priv­i­leges. Duffy is now a San Diego County Su­pe­rior Court judge. Du­ma­nis has an­nounced she will re­sign in July.

Azano still faces a charge of il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of a firearm, for which pros­e­cu­tors have said they plan to retry him. No date has been set for that.

K.C. Al­fred San Diego Union-Tri­bune

JOSÉ AZANO in court in San Diego. Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors charged him with di­rect­ing a scheme to fun­nel cam­paign do­na­tions to two may­oral can­di­dates in 2012.

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