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Azano’s Lawyer Wants New Trial In Campaign Corruption Case Citing Prior Defense Incompetence

Mexican businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura, right, walks into the federal ...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Mexican businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura, right, walks into the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego with his former attorney, Michael Wynne, July 27, 2016.

Defense lawyer Knut Johnson said Jose Susumo Azano Matsura's previous attorney never used the only defense available, which was that the businessman was ignorant of U.S. campaign law.

A lawyer for Mexican tycoon José Susumo Azano Matsura convicted last year of channeling more than a half-million dollars into San Diego campaigns said his client deserves a new trial.

The reason? A shoddy defense.

"The only defense available to Mr. Azano was simple: he did not know that his acts were illegal," wrote Azano's current defense lawyer Knut Johnson, in court papers filed this week. "Mr. Azano would never have donated if he had known to do so was illegal."

A jury convicted Azano on 36 counts, including conspiracy to contribute illegally to the 2012 mayoral campaigns of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner. Azano was barred from giving money because he is a foreign national without a green card.

Johnson represented Azano early in the case in 2014 but then left before it went to trial.

Now that he has returned, he contends his replacement, Michael Wynne, botched Azano’s trial defense from his opening statement by disparaging Azano to jurors.

"I want to get away from this guy," Johnson quoted Wynne in his opening. "He's got a little poppy nose. Tough to look at him. I don't like him."

Johnson also wrote that instead of arguing that Azano "did not know he could not act as he did," Wynne argued irrelevant details like disputing what the government said was the businessman's motive in making the campaign contributions.

And Johnson added that Azano’s trial attorney’s closing argument was even worse, calling it "confusing" and "lacking in context and explanation."

The next hearing for Azano is scheduled for June.

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Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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