Closing arguments begin in Nutting trial
The beginning of the closing statements from the prosecution and defense painted wholly different pictures of Supervisor Ray Nutting on May 8: That he was a hypocrite from the prosecution or that he was simply a man who made inadvertent mistakes from the defense.
Politicians are held to higher standards than normal citizens, Deputy District Attorney James Clinchard said in his closing statement. Invoices, votes and loans show that Nutting cannot be held to that high standard and is guilty of filing false documents, not recusing himself from a conflict of interest vote and receiving loans from other county employees and contractors.
Nutting signed Form 700s — forms that show economic interests and incomes for an elected official — under penalty of perjury. In looking at what he did not include — reimbursements from Proposition 40 grants — political opponents George Turnboo and Helen Baumann would have used the missing info in campaigns. The information could have been used by voters to determine whether to elect or retain Nutting and whether he had any biases.
Nutting is a smart man, having gotten a bachelor’s degree and run businesses, Clinchard said, and has been filling out Form 700s since 1992. It is not a defense that he may not have known or mistook the laws, he said.
As for the reason for a need to extend time needed to complete work required to be reimbursed, Nutting said in court it was to spray herbicide on his property. Clinchard showed the jury a document that stated it was due to an “economic situation ” that “postponed the start of the project to December 2008.” Nutting can tailor his testimony, being that last witness, to testimony previously heard in the trial.
Despite the fact that Jeff Calvert testified that the work could not be done 45 days after the deadline — April 15, 2009 — which was meant for doing paperwork, Nutting testified that he had sprayed herbicide after the date.
Clinchard asked the jury to consider whether Nutting was a member of the Board of Supervisors and whether he acted knowingly and willingly in voting. He had a financial interest in keeping the El Dorado County and Georgetown Divide resource conservation districts funded as members of each made up the chairman or vice chairman of the Sierra Coordinated Resource Management Council — the joint powers association that cuts the Prop. 40 checks on behalf of Cal Fire. Votes by Nutting put more than $600,000 in the coffers of the two RCDs. In turn, Nutting and his brother Tom received between 15 and 20 percent of all Prop. 40 money for the county between 2009 and 2012. Possible or potential conflict of interest can be shown in this.
Nutting is supposed to have “absolute loyalty” and “undivided interest” to the Board of Supervisors, Clinchard said, but clearly does not. As a grantee of Prop. 40, he receives money for himself. In this way, he wants to keep SCRMC happy. That way, he can use the money to transition his ranch back to farming timber — not a need of the citizens. Nutting had said previously that he did not want his land to become a “money pit.”
But, Clinchard reiterated, Nutting did not show this on his Form 700, making it impossible for the public to evaluate Nutting’s “divided interests.” Instead, Nutting told them to “Trust me,” Clinchard said.
As for illegal bail, it does not matter the purpose of or what the people giving the money to Nutting called it, the act of giving money with an agreement for return is what constitutes a loan. Giving it to a spouse first to give to Nutting still counts, as does knowledge of where the money came from — which Nutting did, Clinchard said.
Nutting accepted the bail, filed the false documents and voted on conflicts of interests “again and again,” Clinchard said. He violated not only the public trust, but the law.
Defense attorney David Weiner, as in his opening statement of the trial, said that the facts of the case were not in dispute, the interpretation was.
Nutting is “obviously a woodsman. He can make mistakes, he can bumble,” Weiner said. Nutting is used to relying on other people and their advice, such as on the Board of Supervisors. He can’t sit and read every single document that goes through the office. Others review the documents and tell him whether to sign or not. That was why Nutting hired Mark Stewart to help with the Prop. 40 documents. And when the District Attorney’s Office began looking into the documents, Nutting amended his Form 700 from 2009 to show the income. He was not trying to hide anything.
Meanwhile, the prosecution did not contest where $26,000 in Nutting’s account came from after Jennifer, Ray’s wife, itemized them in court. Multiple times during the trial, the prosecution did not cross-examine or rebut statements.
Weiner said Nutting was not a “polished witness” and had a tough time testifying. He’s a politician and wants to talk, rather than get to the point and move on. He’s emotional. He made mistakes, but said what they were. He did not mislead.
As for the 15-20 percent, after asking Marilyn Meixner, who gave the numbers, what the percentage would be taking Tom Nutting’s part and money that had not yet been paid to Ray out, the number became 5 percent. But the higher numbers “established a picture (the prosecution) wanted to paint.” That of favoritism for the county supervisor.
“Phony maps” showed the area of Nutting’s ranch and his brother’s trust to not be high-risk fire areas; defense maps and witnesses said it was mid- or high-risk.
The bail, meanwhile, were not loans — there was no agreement to pay the money back, only the assumption.
The money he voted on for the RCDs did not, as the prosecution would have the jury believe, go to Nutting or the SCRMC. There was no benefit for Nutting; he was treated no differently than any public citizen with a Prop. 40 contract. Voting to improve Missouri Flat Road benefitted Nutting, but was not a conflict of interest, Weiner pointed out.
“There’s only one victim here: It’s my client,” Weiner said. “He made some mistakes.” But he told the truth, as he said he would.
The rebuttal by the prosecution was to begin after a lunch break.
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