DA Hestrin opposes Aklufi motion to dismiss

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On Jan. 2, 2018, attorney Joseph Sandy Aklufi, the last defendant not yet sentenced in a Beaumont city government corruption case, filed a motion with the court to dismiss all charges against him. The basis for Aklufi’s motion was his claim that he had been denied a speedy trial in violation of California Penal Code section 859b. Aklufi has been charged with embezzlement of public funds. The motion will be heard in court on Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Aklufi is the former attorney for Idyllwild water and fire districts.

Five defendants pleaded guilty to charges including embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest, and agreed to pay $8.1 million in restitution to the Western Riverside Council of Governments. A sixth defendant was separately ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.

WRCOG had filed a lawsuit alleging that Beaumont officials had diverted over $43 million from a regional transportation program.

Aklufi, the last to be tried, claimed that although he requested on several occasions a preliminary hearing “at the earliest available opportunity,” he was prevented from having that hearing by District Attorney Michael Hestrin. Penal Code section 859b states a defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing within 60 days of his arraignment.

Aklufi claims the court set his preliminary hearing 384 days after his arraignment and not guilty plea.

Hestrin opposed Aklufi’s motion in an answer filed Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, and recommended that the court deny Akulfi’s request to dismiss the complaint and all charges against him.

Hestrin contended that Akulfi had in fact waived his rights under section 859b at his arraignment on Aug. 19, 2016, and that once waived, that waiver cannot be withdrawn.

Aklufi, in his motion, stated that in view of the prosecution’s statements on Aug. 19, 2016, that it had “hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery to produce,” he “initially” waived his rights to a preliminary hearing within 10 court days of the arraignment and to dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Penal Code section 859b. According to Aklufi’s moving papers, in November, based on the DA’s statement that his office would file an amended complaint with more “voluminous discovery,” Aklufi again waived his 859 rights in view of the yet-to-be-produced discovery.

Said Hestrin in his filing, “On August 19, 2016, defendant waived his right to preliminary hearing within 60 days. That waiver is dispositive and his motion to dismiss must be denied.”

With regard to Aklufi’s claim that the prosecution had failed to provide in a timely fashion documents and evidence supporting charges, Hestrin noted in his brief that his office had made documentary evidence available to Aklufi from the beginning of the case and that Aklufi had made “no attempt to view the evidence.”

If his motion to dismiss is denied, Aklufi’s case will proceed to a preliminary hearing on Feb. 22.

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