Trial turns toward money used for Nutting’s bail
Testimony on April 29 of the Supervisor Ray Nutting trial focused on money used to pay for bail.
The first witness of the day was Katherine “Kitty” Miller, Nutting’s personal assistant. On May 28, 2013, she said she walked into Nutting’s office, where he was on the phone attempting to secure money for bail as he was to be arrested within two hours. Nutting’s wife, Jennifer, was also there.
Miller went home and retrieved $50,000 in cash and was back at the office within 45 minutes. She gave the money to Jennifer, knowing it would go to Ray. She simply considered it “bail money,” she told co-prosecutor James Clinchard. She assumed she would get it back, in cash, shortly after Nutting’s release later that day, possibly within a few days. She noted that she was not paid interest.
Clinchard asked her if, in previous interviews, she had called the money a loan instead of a gift. She said yes, but she would have called it bail if given the choice. He then asked her to read a transcript, in which Clinchard had asked if it was a gift, loan “or something else.” She later said she felt pressured to call it a loan.
The money had been taken out of her bank in cash, Miller told defense attorney David Weiner, because she intended to invest in silver. On the bail receipt, Jennifer Nutting noted the money was to be returned to Miller instead of the Nutting family. Because Nutting had given $3,000 cash to Miller upon his release, Miller received a check from the county Auditor-Controller’s Office for $47,000.
No one asked her or pre-arranged with her to pay bail or receive a loan, she said. She was also not worried about losing her job or having a problem getting another job in the county should she lose her job.
Katherine Tyler, a clerk with the Board of Supervisors, was called to the stand. She withdrew $8,000 to help Nutting with bail money after learning about the situation from Miller. She, too, gave the cash to Jennifer Nutting. However, a few hours later, at Ray Nutting’s behest, Jennifer cut a check to Tyler. Clinchard asked if Tyler considered the money a loan. “I did,” she said, noting she expected to be paid back. It was not documented, but she was not worried, she said.
She told Weiner that she “was not solicited, not one penny, by the Nutting family.” She simply considered Ray Nutting a “friend in need.”
The next witness was Chuck Holland, owner of Gold Country Bail Bonds and CHI Monitoring. He noted that CHI Monitoring has a contract with the county, including at the time Nutting was arrested. Prior to the arrest, Nutting called Holland — Holland recognized the voice — and asked for a loan of $10,000. This was not something Holland could do, he told Clinchard, as he was licensed to issue bail bonds but could not loan out his own money as bail; that requires a different bail license.
Holland did offer a regular bail bond, instead, he told Weiner. He would have charged an 8 percent fee due to Nutting having a retained lawyer instead of the normal 10 percent. They could meet at the jail, Holland would post bail and Nutting would be released in 45 minutes. It would be done through the bail company. But Nutting did not use Holland’s service.
The $10,000, Holland assumed, would be pooled with other money to make the $55,000 bail. He reported what happened within an hour to District Attorney Vern Pierson. Holland understood what Nutting was asking to be a crime as he, having a contract with the county, could not lend out his personal money to a county elected official. He was solicited for what he believed was a crime.
Pierson, Holland confirmed to Weiner, is a personal friend. Holland knew Pierson before the election to become DA, provided money to Pierson’s campaign, had dinner with Pierson and gone on hunting trips together. Holland confirmed he made derogatory comments to a local newspaper in April regarding Nutting.
Weiner then had Holland read his contract with the county and pointed out that it would have been a conflict of interest even to offer bail to Nutting, which Holland said he had. But, Holland said, he was not worried about prosecution concerning his actions nor did it influence him testifying.
When asked by Clinchard whether Holland had contributed to Nutting’s campaigns in the past, Holland confirmed he had.
The final witness of the morning was Marilyn Meixner, a forensic auditor with the DA’s Office with prior Department of Justice experience. She audited the case to look at fiscal documents, reviewing bank statements from 2009.
She traced money that she believed was income to, in part, the Sierra Coordinated Resources Management Council, which cuts checks on behalf of Cal Fire for Proposition 40 reimbursement money for landowners with contracts with Cal Fire to improve their land. Other parts came from rent.
Between Nutting and the Happy Valley Trust, the land adjacent to Nutting’s that lists Nutting’s brother Tom as the beneficiary, SCRMC gave between 15 and 20 percent of Prop. 40 money allocated to the county.
When the money still pending from the contract that ended in 2011 is taken out of account, though, Nutting himself only received 5 percent, she told Weiner.
Though Clinchard had asked her to review the documents, she said he did not tell her to try and find the largest percentage she could; she did her work independently. She knew, however, that Nutting had, to date, received 5 percent of the county’s allocated Prop. 40 reimbursement money between 2009 and 2011.
Meixner was excused and the trial broke for lunch.