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Federal Judge Refuses to Recuse Himself from S.D. Pension Fraud Case

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Aired 4/19/09

A federal judge has refused to recuse himself from the San Diego pension fraud case. Prosecutors had asked Judge Robert Benitez to step aside. They said the judge's past violations of state disclosure laws threw his impartiality into question. KPBS Reporter Amita Sharma has more.

Government lawyers had argued since their case against former San Diego pension officials will involve state disclosure laws, Benitez should be disqualified. Benitez violated the state political reform act by failing to report campaign contributions when he unsuccessfully ran for superior court judge in 1994.

In his ruling, Benitez described the connection between his candidacy and the prosecution of ex-city officials as thin. He also called prosecutors' efforts to remove him a pretext. Benitez stated government lawyers are really after a fresh start with a new judge because he had raised concerns about their case.

U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt says she's pleased the matter is resolved.

Amita Sharma, KPBS News.

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