A preliminary hearing for a real estate developer charged in a Palm Springs City Hall bribery scheme was adjourned today at the request of the prosecution and defense.
John Elroy Wessman, 83, is charged with nine counts of bribery of a public official and one count of conspiracy in connection with the alleged offences, which date back a decade.
See our “City Hall Scandal” section for full coverage of this case.
In a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, the prosecution and defense appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Dumanis, who granted a mutual request for the prosecution to continue until 28 october.
No specific reason was given for either party requesting the four-month delay. It is expected that when Wessman returns to court, he will be joined by his co-defendants, former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, 59, and developer Richard Hugh Meaney, 56.
The three men are free on bail.
In December 2020, a trial judge dismissed criminal charges filed against Wessman, saying there was insufficient evidence to support the charges. However, the district attorney’s office appealed the decision, which was overturned by a three-judge panel of the Riverside Fourth District Court of Appeals, resulting in the reinstatement of all charges. .
“Based on our independent review of the record, we conclude that the evidence presented to the grand jury was sufficient to support the indictment and that the other grounds for confirmation of the order suggested by the defendant are not supported by the record,” the panel said. “Accordingly, we rescind the order granting the defendant’s motion to vacate the indictment.”
Prosecutors allege the two real estate moguls paid bribes to Pougnet in return for his support of their commercial construction projects.
Pougnet is charged with 21 counts, including perjury, public bribery and conspiracy, while Meaney faces nine counts of public official bribery and one count of conspiracy.
If convicted, Pougnet could face more than 19 years in state prison. Meaney and Wessman each face 12 years behind bars if convicted. Prosecutors allege Pougnet pocketed a total of $375,000 between 2012 and 2014 for voting in favor of the men’s development projects.
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