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Court Upholds Inzunza, Zucchet Rulings

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Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 7:08 am, Thu Dec 3, 2009.

The acquittal of former San Diego City Councilman Michael Zucchet on corruption charges, and the conviction of his former colleague, Ralph Inzunza, have been upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling issued today.

But the case is still not over.

The decision by a three-judge appeals panel isn’t going to be official until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a case with similar issues.

And, once the decision is final, both Inzunza’s lawyers and the government may request an en banc hearing, in which they ask for a review by the full 9th Circuit. Failing that, both sides may seek Supreme Court review, which is rarely granted.

As for Zucchet, he was acquitted of seven corruption counts and granted a new trial on two counts. There is a chance the government could decide to pursue a new trial on those counts. And that could get complicated because the decision could fall to the yet-to-be selected new San Diego U.S. attorney. One of the frontrunners is one of Zucchet’s attorneys, Jerry Coughlan.

Zucchet and Inzunza were convicted by a jury in 2005 of accepting money from strip club associates in exchange for efforts to repeal a law banning touching between nude dancers and patrons. Inzunza was sentenced to 21 months in prison and has been free on bond pending appeal; Zucchet was acquitted by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller, and the government appealed.

The ruling bolsters Judge Miller, who made the bold and controversial move to overturn a jury’s verdict in a high-profile case that divided the community.

Neither Zucchet, Inzunza nor their lawyers were immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt said she is reviewing the ruling and may comment later.

— KELLY THORNTON

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