Former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and real estate developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney were indicted by a Riverside grand jury on bribery, perjury, and conflict of interest charges, District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced on Friday.
Via the Desert Sun:
The indictment, announced by Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin on Friday, comes after several unsuccessful attempts to bring the former mayor and two developers before a judge to determine if there is enough evidence for the three to go to trial.
Pougnet was indicted on 21 counts, and Meaney and Wessman were each indicted on 10 counts. The three will not be rearrested, but have been ordered to appear for arraignment in Riverside County Superior Court on Sept. 12, the District Attorney’s office said.
John Hall, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office, said the indictment takes the place of a preliminary hearing and clears the path for the case to go to a jury trial.
“All defendants had been requesting delays of the preliminary hearing and our office has been objecting to those delays since April,” Hall said by email. “So, with the indictment, the case now can move forward to the trial phase.”
All three defendants previously pleaded not guilty and will next appear in court on September 12, according to KESQ.
Following the announcement of the indictments, the city of Palm Springs released the following statement:
“After nearly four years of our community waiting for a resolution, the Palm Springs City Council is pleased the Riverside County District Attorney requested this procedural change to have the Grand Jury, made up of Riverside County citizens, review the evidence in this matter to determine if there is probable cause that a crime may have been committed. The Grand Jury came to the same conclusion that the District Attorney previously came to, issuing indictments against the former mayor and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney. As a result, a trial should now proceed more expeditiously through our criminal justice system and continuous delays will cease. No other individuals, including City Staff, were found by either the District Attorney or the Grand Jury to have committed wrongdoing. Each of us was elected after the events that led to the indictments occurred and we are proud of the work our Council, Staff and resident led Task Force have done to enact and implement new, ethics and transparency laws and policies that far exceed the requirements of state and federal law, making Palm Springs a leader in open government.”
Meanwhile, the Kimpton Rowan Hotel in downtown Palm Springs has rooms available tonight for $328.