Judge rejects bid for new trial for Mexican businessman
José Azano was guilty of steering illegal contributions in San Diego mayoral race.
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.
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.