Differing Bail Terms In San Diego Campaign Finance Probe Trigger Speculation
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
The three men accused of illegally steering foreign money into San Diego elections were charged with the same crime. But their terms of release are very different.
Special Feature Dirty Money
All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.
Ernesto Encinas, Ravi Singh and Marco Polo Cortes are charged with one count of conspiring to commit offenses against the United States. Prosecutors say the trio helped illegally pump more than $500,000 in foreign money from a Mexican national. The complaint does not name the national, but sources confirm he is Mexican tycoon Jose Susumo Azano Matsura. Azano has not been charged.
Two of three men who have been charged — Singh and Cortes — were released on $250,000 and $100,000 bond respectively. Encinas, however, was released on his own recognizance — or O.R. — without posting any bail and without opposition from federal prosecutors.
“An O.R. release is considered to be a pretty unique bond for this district," said Mario Conte, former executive director of Federal Defenders of San Diego and general counsel for California Western School of Law. "That doesn’t mean that they’re never granted but in terms of the percentage of time they’re granted, I’d say it’s pretty unusual.”
Encinas’s defense lawyer Jeremy Warren agrees with Conte on the rarity of such releases. But he points out that Encinas’s background as a former police detective and the non-violent nature of the allegations against him led to the O.R. release.
Privately, lawyers in the defense community said the release could signal Encinas has become a cooperative defendant in the case. His lawyer Warren said no decision has been made yet.
“We’re in a position where we’re going to be reviewing the discovery in the case, just like any other defendant in a case, and considering the options that are available," Warren said.
The government said Encinas helped hide the foreign campaign donations using shell companies.