A federal judge denied the request by five former pension officials to throw out the case against them this morning, saying he agreed that the indictment charging them with alleged corruption was vague. But he said it clear enough for the case to proceed.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez rapped federal prosecutors for not providing the indicted individuals with information on “unnamed co-conspirators” in the charges against former pension system staff members and trustees. That information, the judge said, is needed by the defendants in order to sufficiently defend themselves.

“Doesn’t a defendant have the right to know who the others are?” Benitez said. He continued, “That causes me to believe there’ something else. What is that something else?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Owens said he thought the judge’s concerns were addressed in a document the Justice Department filed last week. The document laid out 24 claims and statements that should help clarify the intent of the indictment, Owens said.

“I don’t think there is a real mystery of what’s going on,” Owens said.

In January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged former retirement Administrator Larry Grissom, ex-pension attorney Lori Chapin, firefighters union president Ron Saathoff, former Assistant Auditor Terri Webster and former Human Resources Director Cathy Lexin for their alleged roles in the crafting of a deal between the city and the retirement system that fattened their future retirement checks. Saathoff, Webster and Lexin served on the pension board.

A trial is scheduled to begin in May. Defendants are asking that the judge move the proceedings outside San Diego County – possibly to El Centro or Orange County – where media coverage over the city’s pension crisis is not as prevalent.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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