A Mexican millionaire accused of making illegal contributions to local political campaigns is upset about the slow progress of the federal case against him, and according to his attorney, “just wants to get his life back.”
Jose Susumo Azano Matsura allegedly made more than $600,000 in illegal contributions to former Mayor Bob Filner, failed mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis, and other candidates. Federal prosecutors claim Azano corrupted U.S. elections and tried to buy access to development rights on the San Diego bay front.
Azano’s relationship with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who placed fourth in the 2012 mayoral campaign, was the focus attention last week, as Dumanis campaigned for a fourth term as district attorney.
Her main opponent, former federal prosecutor Bob Brewer, made an issue of a letter Dumanis wrote to the president of the University of San Diego, recommending Azano’s son, Edward, for admission to the private Catholic college.
Dumanis had previously minimized her relationship with Jose Azano Matsura; Brewer claimed the letter indicated a more extensive relationship between the county’s top prosecutor and the accused felon. Brewer also raised questions about a possible “quid-pro-quo” in which Dumanis wrote the recommendation, and possibly provided other benefits, in return for $200,000 in contributions to independent groups that supported Dumanis’s failed mayoral campaign.
Azano was back in court Monday for a routine hearing on the federal case. His lawyer, Knut Johnson, complained to the judge that prosecutors are taking too long to produce an updated criminal complaint that will lay the details of Azano’s alleged campaign fraud.
Prosecutors indicated that it could be September, at the earliest, before that complaint is filed with the court. Defense attorney Johnson and lawyers for two other defendants in the case said they cannot fight the case and will try to get it dismissed until they see that detailed complaint.
Meanwhile, Azano remains under house arrest at his Coronado mansion. His lawyer says Azano is unable to fully control his vast business empire in his home country of Mexico and around the world.
“His number one priority is to exonerate his name, to clear his name,” Johnson told Judge Michael Anello. “His position is, he has done nothing wrong, and this case should go away.”
Another defense attorney, Michael Lipman, who represents Chicago-based campaign consultant Ravneet Singh, took the same position, telling reporters, “We believe that when we finally get in front of a jury, we’ll be able to convince a jury that (Singh) is not guilty of anything.”
Lipman also confirmed for the first time that the government used at least one wiretap to build its case against Azano, Singh and the other defendants. Lipman said defense attorneys will challenge the legality of that wiretap.
The judge set the next hearing in the case for September 15th. Lipman said it could be next year before the trial starts.
Despite the negative publicity the case focused on Dumanis, she coasted to a fourth term as District Attorney, easily beating Brewer in last Tuesday’s election.
Dumanis refuses to answer questions about the recommendation letter she wrote for Edward Susumo Azano or her relationship with the Azano family.
Dumanis says she won’t comment because those issues are part of an “on-going criminal investigation."
Several local criminal defense attorneys unconnected with the case told NBC 7 that Dumanis has probably talked with FBI agents and/or federal prosecutors about her relationship with Azano and may have testified to a grand jury that is hearing evidence in the case against Azano and the other defendants.