San Diego Superior Court Judge Ana España denied numerous motions by defense attorneys on Tuesday and Wednesday to drop charges in the Sweetwater corruption case.
The lawyer for former Sweetwater Union School District Superintendent Jesus Gandara argued that bribery charges against his client should be dropped.
Attorney Paul Pfingst said a lobster dinner that Gandara allegedly received in exchange for a construction contract had nothing to do with the school board approving the contract, nor was he bribed.
Pfingst said Gandara had two dinners prior to the vote of the contract; during one dinner Gandara never spoke to construction executive Henry Amigable and during the second dinner both men just shared a “social conversation.”
“It comes down to a single dinner with no other evidence of any interaction prior to the action alleged in the indictment,” Pfingst said. “There’s no evidence that anything was discussed at that dinner. Is that enough to accuse a man of bribing or being bribed? The lobster dinner is the bribe in this case. That’s the only possible bribe in this case.”
España denied the motion because she said Gandara participated in multiple dinners and a lunch at a time when political votes were being given out.
Marc Carlos, attorney for Sweetwater board member Pearl Quinones, who was present, wanted a charge dropped but was unsuccessful.
He claimed that Quinones did not receive a gift when receiving a helicopter ride, that was why she did not claim it on the appropriate form.
“Essentially what that was, was a flyover of a worksite, which was no different than taking a picture of a worksite just basically showing the visuals of the worksite, an aerial shot,” he said. “There is no gift that is involved there, there is no value involved there.”
The District Attorney agreed to drop an extortion charge for Quinones and a second charge of bribery.
Former Sweetwater board member Greg Sandoval had two extortion charges dismissed while current board members Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa had a bribery charge dropped by the district attorney.
A readiness conference is scheduled for Oct. 29 at 1:30 p.m.