A witness testified Thursday that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis left campaign contribution envelopes with a wealthy billionaire from Mexico after a “meet and greet” at the businessman’s Coronado home in December 2011.
The witnesses was pressed on her alleged involvement in shuttling envelopes full of cash between a luxury car dealership and a former San Diego police detective.
Prosecutors say Jose Susumo Azano Matsura wanted to buy influence so he could transform San Diego’s waterfront into a “Miami West” with more nightlife and high-rise condos.
Dumanis testified Wednesday she believed the billionaire businessman was a United States Citizen.
Today, a prosecutor read prior Grand Jury testimony to witness Elizabeth Lugo about Dumanis allegedly leaving a handful of campaign envelopes with Azano. Lugo testified Dumanis’ fundraiser, Kelli Maruccia, returned with a large box of empty campaign envelopes, after the handful Dumanis allegedly left, ran out.
Lugo, a cousin to the billionaire’s wife, repeatedly testified Thursday that she did not recall the prior testimony she gave to the Grand Jury.
“I do not recall,” she said repeatedly. “I don’t remember being asked about that.”
Lugo said she also did not recall testifying about her role shuttling a box of envelopes full of cash between luxury car dealer Marc Chase and former San Diego police detective Ernie Encinas.
Both Chase and Encinas have pleaded guilty to their involvement.
Azano is accused of illegally trying to influence local campaigns by compensating campaign donors with cash.
Foreign nationals are not allowed to donate to local campaigns.
Azano’s defense attorney said his client wasn’t privy to what Encinas was up to with the envelopes full of cash.
“Ernie Encinas is the individual who had an interest in developing his security business, including with nightclubs and strip clubs and getting those businesses to serve alcohol later at night,” Defense Attorney Michael Wynee said outside the federal courthouse Wednesday. “That was his alternative agenda and his alternative motive.”
The defense called businessman Manuel Rodriguez, who testified he has been close friends with Azano for more than 20 years. Rodriguez testified Azano wanted to move to Miami, not create a Miami-like development along San Diego’s bay front.
On cross examination, a prosecutor switched gears a bit proposing the idea was to develop Chula Vista’s bay front, based on a meeting between former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, Azano and a Middle East businessman at Azano’s Coronado home. As mayor of San Diego, not Chula Vista, Filner did not have jurisdiction over Chula Vista’s bay front, which includes several hundred acres of federal wetlands, and a San Diego Gas & Electric substation.
The federal trial is expected to wrap up Friday or early next week when the case will be handed over to a jury for a ruling.