Testimony ends in trial of two men accused of bribing

Testimony ends in trial of two men accused of bribing supervisor’s ex-chief
of staff

Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/2011

inlandnewspapers

SAN BERNARDINO – Testimony ended Wednesday in the trial for two businessmen
accused of bribing a county supervisor’s former chief of staff for his help
with securing permits for a troubled Bloomington development.

Prosecutors rested their case against Pasadena-based Arshak Kouladjian, and
his brother Vartan Kouladjian, who are accused of bribing Bob Page, former
Fifth District chief of staff, in 2007 and 2008.

Both defense lawyers also rested, without calling any witnesses. Vartan
Kouladjian’s high-profile lawyer Mark Geragos had planned to call one
witness, but he could not reach that person, Geragos told Judge Michael
Smith before proceedings began Wednesday.

That set the stage for the lawyers to deliver their closing arguments to the
jury Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Smith told jurors they had finally heard all of the evidence but not to
reach any conclusions until after they had been advised on applicable law,
heard the lawyers’ arguments and were in deliberations together.

“It did take a little bit longer than we had originally planned, but we are
at the very end now,” Smith said to the jury.

The judge also on Wednesday denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges
against the Kouladjians, arguing the evidence wasn’t sufficient.

Prosecutors allege the Kouladjians had trouble securing approvals for
occupany permits, wanted the county to pay for necessary street widening and
sought assistance from the office of Fifth District Supervisor Josie
Gonzales.

In his trial testimony, Page said he did nothing unlawful and showed
personal treatment to the Kouladjians by contacting Land Use Services
personnel and collecting updates about the defendants’ multi-phase project
on Slover Avenue.

Prosecutors allege the Kouladjians gave and tried to give cash to Page in
late 2007 and early 2008 during a series of lunch meetings in San Bernardino
and a trip to the project site.

Page alerted authorities and agreed to cooperate in the investigation, wore
a body wire and recorded conversations, he said.

Both defense attorneys argued the money was given in appreciation for Page’s
past acts, as a gift.

“Repeatedly, the term `appreciation’ is used,” Geragos said.

In the October 2007 charged act, only an envelope with unknown contents is
given. In the February 2008 act, Page isn’t even at the restaurant, and the
defendants were simply in possession of cash, the defense argued.

Arshak Kouladjian’s lawyer, Philip Cohen, joined in Geragos’ motion and also
argued that the money was not a bribe because Page was not a ministerial
officer with any control over the permit process.

But prosecutor Michael Abney argued that money was clearly tied to the
street widening issue, that Vartan Kouladjian told Page more money could be
available for future acts, and that Page doesn’t have to be a ministerial
officer – but can be a county employee – under the state’s Penal Code.

The defendants each face two counts of bribery and one count of attempted
bribery.

[email protected]
909-386-3880

From: A. Papazian

http://www.sbsun.com

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