Dumanis Releases Controversial Letter of Recommendation

After weeks of legal motions and public records requests, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis releases a controversial letter written for the son of a key player in an ongoing campaign finance scandal

Hours after a deadline given by a San Diego media coalition, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis releases a controversial letter of recommendation written for the son of a man accused in an expanding campaign finance scandal.

“I’m the only one that was open on this from the beginning,” Dumanis told an employee of a local television station. “I think it’s time to move on.”

The district attorney appeared on KUSI-TV Wednesday and discussed the letter written on District Attorney’s letterhead for Edward Susumo Azano, who had applied to the University of San Diego.

The applicant’s father, Mexican millionaire Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, is accused of violating federal election laws by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to at least three local politicians, including Dumanis.

She stated that her longtime friend former SDPD detective Ernesto Encinas asked her to write the letter.

Encinas is another key player in the campaign finance scandal. He pleaded guilty, admitting that he funneled money into local campaigns on behalf of Azano.

"Ernie is somebody I knew and I've always said I've known for a long time as a law enforcement officer," she told the news station.

Dumanis said she signed a letter prepared by someone else.

Azano Jr.'s attorney, Knut Johnson, said the information released today confirmed exactly what his client had been saying all along.

"Edward Azano didn't request the District Attorney to write this letter. That was done by Mr. Encinas without my client's prior knowledge and that fact is essential to this case," Johnson said.

Those monies contributed by Azano went to independent campaign efforts on behalf of Dumanis.

The KUSI appearance was the first time the letter has been seen publicly since it was brought up in a heated primary campaign by opponent Bob Brewer.

Dumanis described Edward Susumo Azano as a “bright, energetic, compassionate” Political Science major who participated in political campaigns in Mexico.

Attorneys for NBC 7 San Diego and ten other local media outlets and journalism groups urged Dumanis to release a copy of a recommendation letter.

In the text of the letter, she offers the main phone number for the Office of the District Attorney’s Office to the recipient to discuss her recommendation further.

Three weeks ago, Dumanis denied a Public Records Act request filed by NBC San Diego. She claims the letter is a standard recommendation letter and is not a public record.

"Because in this case everybody is so distracted by the letter," Dumanis told KUSI. "In this case and in this case only I will release it in my individual capacity."

Dumanis has downplayed her relationship with the Azano family but refuses to answer any questions about why she wrote the recommendation letter for Azano’s son.

When asked if she regretted writing the letter, Dumanis laughed and said "Well what do you think?"

She continued, "If I had known when I wrote the letter what I know today I certainly wouldn't have wanted to write the letter but this was just another letter in the context of a lot of people and there was no reason not to write the letter at the time." 

Attorneys for the media outlets sent a letter Monday afternoon to Deputy District Attorney Brooke Tafreshi asking that Dumanis voluntarily release a copy of the letter by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

If Dumanis didn't meet the deadline, NBC 7 and the ten other media outlets intended to file a legal action against the district attorney in Superior Court.

It's important to note, KUSI was not a member of the media coalition urging Dumanis to turn over the letter.

Also, Dumanis refused to respond to questions from an NBC 7 News crew outside the television station after Wednesday's interview.

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