DA Dumanis Subpoenaed in Campaign Conspiracy Case

by on August 11, 2016 · 0 comments

in Culture, Election, History, Politics, San Diego

Bonnie Dumanis edit Jan 2012

DA Bonnie Dumanis, in dated photo from 2012.

By Doug Porter

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has been and is expected to testify in federal district court on Monday at the trial of Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

Defense attorney Michael Wynne has been questioning witnesses about the DA’s direct knowledge of illegal campaign contributions and told freelance reporter JC Playford in an on-the-street video about the summons.

Although their initial support for her campaign is at the core of the government case against Azano and his co-conspirators, prosecutors have this far crafted a case that avoids avoiding linking her to any participation or awareness of illegal activities.

KPBS is reporting on additional subpoenaed witnesses:

Also subpoenaed are ex-Mayor Bob Filner and Rep. Juan Vargas, both Democrats, the attorney said. Dumanis is a Republican.

Her spokesman said on Wednesday that Dumanis would not be commenting “on this pending criminal matter.”

San Diego developer and hotelier Douglas Manchester, who previously owned The San Diego Union-Tribune, also has been ordered to testify in the Azano case, as has the current publisher and editor of the newspaper, Jeff Light. Manchester is a well-known Republican who financially supports GOP politicians and initiatives, including Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Azano, along with his son Edward, lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes and campaign consultant Ravneet Singh, are accused of conspiring to illegally contribute $600,000 in campaign funds and services in the 2012 San Diego mayor’s race.

From the Union-Tribune:

Prosecutors contend the money was contributed three ways:

  • Via straw donors, who made contributions and were later reimbursed by Azano.
  • Through an independent campaign committee secretly funded by Azano.
  • With in-kind services, such as social media work, provided by Singh and his firm ElectionMall, clandestinely paid for by Azano.

As a foreign citizen, Azano is barred from contributing to domestic campaigns. He also faces a charge of illegal possession of a firearm. All have pleaded not guilty.

Dumanis mayoral campaign emails, campaign disclosure forms, and campaign website screen grabs have all been displayed in court as part of the prosecution’s case.

Dumanis campaign official Ron Nehring, formerly head of the county and state Republican Party, was questioned by the defense about a December 25, 2011 email from DA Dumanis regarding a conference call with the defendants and Ernie Encinas, a retired San Diego detective who worked for Azano.

From the Union-Tribune:

Azano leaving court. Screenshot from JC Playford video. Will Dumanis get nailed?

Azano leaving court. Screenshot from JC Playford video

In the email Dumanis refers to Azano as “Mr. A” says he is “very wealthy,” had a relationship with Singh and wanted the campaign services guru to meet with her campaign. Wynne peppered Nehring with questions about who “he” or “him” in the emails could be. Azano? Encinas?

Nehring responded what he thought the email meant, leading Wynne to observe, “The best person to explain it would be Bonnie Dumanis?”

“Perhaps,” Nehring said.

Following demands and threats of legal action by a coalition of media outlets, DA Dumanis released a letter of recommendation on official stationary written to the University of San Diego in on behalf of Azano’s son, who is also charged in the case.

A meeting between Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore and Azano on March 2, 2012 didn’t show up on the DA’s official calendar.

From Liam Dillon, then writing at Voice of San Diego:

Dumanis has insisted she barely knew Azano. She told U-T San Diego she only met him once – at an early 2012 luncheon at Azano’s Coronado estate – then said it could have been more than once. It’s since been revealed that she wrote a recommendation letter to the University of San Diego for Azano’s son, and accompanied Azano to an introductory meeting at the office of another high-level law enforcement official.

NBC 7 San Diego’s Wendy Fry, who had previously requested Dumanis’ calendar, was told that some meetings wouldn’t be disclosed on the district attorney’s schedule, such as personal events unrelated to her official duties. Many public officials take pride in listing meetings on their calendars as a way to be transparent about their affairs. Dumanis told Fry she released her calendar in the interest of open government.

I asked Dumanis spokesman Steve Walker whether there was a specific reason the meeting didn’t appear on the district attorney’s calendar. He said the meeting wasn’t redacted. It just wasn’t there.


This is an excerpt from Doug’s column at SDFP.

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