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District Attorney Summer Stephan is asking a Superior Court judge to let her prosecutors use evidence seized from Cisterra Development and a former city real estate advisor as part of its criminal probe into the city’s acquisition of two downtown high-rises.
Stephan’s office filed a motion Thursday asking the judge to resolve a claim of attorney-client privilege over items obtained during October raids of the city adviser, Jason Hughes, his company and Cisterra.
“The best evidence of a conspiracy to commit a crime is communication between the parties,” wrote Deputy District Attorney Hector Jimenez, in the motion requesting a hearing next month on which documents should and shouldn’t be protected by attorney-client privilege. “The District Attorney’s Office will contend the parties cannot prove the expansive privileges claimed exist,” Jimenez wrote. “It is apparent that Hughes and Cisterra don’t want to share communications with us. All of the communications should be released. They will tell the truth.”
The motion comes just days before the City Council is set to consider a settlement of some of the lawsuits related to the city’s acquisition of 101 Ash Street and the Civic Center Plaza, a long-running real estate debacle. The settlement would result in the city purchasing the two buildings.
Hughes’ attorney Michael Attanasio said his client welcomed the judge’s review of the documents.
“As he said from the beginning, Jason Hughes remains ready to cooperate in any legitimate investigations,” Attanasio wrote in a statement. “He has made himself available for interviews with law enforcement, he provided extensive documents in the criminal investigation and civil litigation, and he answered all questions put to him over three days of depositions in the civil cases. The DA’s Office has acknowledged that some of the materials taken during execution of its search warrants involved communications with lawyers. These materials are covered by the attorney-client privilege, and we welcome the DA’s invitation for judicial review so that we can ensure protection of valid privileges.”
Spokespeople for the city attorney’s office and Cisterra declined to comment. A spokesman for Mayor Todd Gloria said the mayor is aware of the DA’s ongoing criminal probe.
“This motion to access documents is to be expected. It’s precisely what the Mayor has been asking for: law enforcement to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing in this matter,” Nick Serrano, Gloria’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “This criminal inquiry does not absolve the City of its obligations to deal with 101 Ash Street and Civic Center Plaza. Similarly the proposed civil settlement agreement will not prevent prosecutors from holding anyone accountable for their role in this mess.”
Related: The Union-Tribune reported that lawyers for taxpayers in a different, related 101 Ash St. case are asking a judge to halt the city from buying out the leases of the two buildings, as proposed in the settlement. A hearing on that request for a temporary restraining order is set for Tuesday, the same day the Council is set to consider the settlement itself.
How Public Transit Access Affects San Diego’s Workforce
A citizens’ initiative that would have raised funds to expand public transit has failed to get enough signatures for the November ballot. It was supposed to help pay for the region’s new, long-term transportation plan, intended to not just bring down emissions and air pollution but serve working-class people who rely on buses and trolleys.
In his Fine City column, Jesse Marx considers the relationship between public transit and workforce development, pointing to some rather bleak stats suggesting that most jobs are inaccessible to riders.
A cook from Tijuana said he sleeps sometimes in his car rather than make the long journey home from San Diego. He considers that more convenient than taking an alternative mode of transportation.
It’s not all bad news. Marx spoke to a formerly homeless woman who landed in an SRO and can take a rapid bus to City Heights in a few minutes. Easy access to transit has increased her economic opportunity.
In Other News
- Prominent San Diego voices in union labor and economic development say the City Council should support a settlement between Mayor Todd Gloria’s team and the landlord and lender of the embattled 101 Ash Street building, in a new opinion piece.
- Baja authorities launched a criminal investigation into the death of a Guatemalan diplomat’s wife following plastic surgery at a private hospital in Tijuana. (Union-Tribune)
- East County San Diegans are under an extreme heat advisory Friday with daytime highs potentially reaching up to 120 degrees. (Union-Tribune)
- Mexican officials blame Trump’s 30-foot border wall for a majority of the injuries to Mexican nationals attempting to cross the border illegally. (KPBS)
- A new shelter in downtown San Diego that will serve up to 40 women with medical needs opened Thursday. (CBS 8)
This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Jesse Marx and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Megan Wood and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.