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L.A. County Assessor John Noguez makes bail in corruption case

John Noguez
Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, who has been in jail since his October arrest on two dozen corruption charges, finally made bail Friday.

Noguez is accused of taking $185,000 in bribes from Ramin Salari, a prominent property-tax consultant and generous Noguez campaign fundraiser. In return for the cash, Noguez is alleged to have lowered property-tax bills for some of Salari’s wealthy clients.

Since his arrest, Noguez has struggled to raise money for his $1.16 million bail.  A key hurdle has been proving that whatever money he uses for his defense is not derived from the alleged criminal enterprise.

Noguez cleared that hurdle Friday morning, after a wealthy benefactor put up property as collateral, according to Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman. 

Huntsman declined to identify the donor but said the person had received “no obvious tax breaks” from Noguez.

Noguez’s attorney, Michael Proctor, said a group of Noguez supporters put up the money but acknowledged there was one person who put up more than the rest. Proctor also declined to identify that donor.

Proctor has been critical of the high-bail amount and fighting for Noguez’s release for nearly five months. On Friday he said, “This is America. People are innocent until they are proven guilty. John ought to be out, and we’re happy about that.”

Proctor declined to describe what Noguez is looking forward to most after his months of isolation at Men’s Central Jail, saying only that his client is eager to start working on his defense, which is difficult to do from a jail cell.

While Noguez continued receiving his $197,000 county salary while in jail, he was not allowed to use that money for bail.

“We’re alleging that he received bribes, so his salary was linked to his criminal conduct,” Huntsman said.

Despite his arrest and incarceration, Noguez is still officially the Los Angeles County assessor and could walk into work on Monday morning and take over. Rumors have been flying around the assessor’s office for weeks that he would do just that if he made bail.

But county spokesman David Sommers released a statement to employees on Friday, tamping down that speculation.

“Although as an elected official Mr. Noguez has the right to immediately return to his post, I fully expect that he will remain on a voluntary leave of absence to focus on his legal issues and minimize the impact of the trial on our day-to-day operations.”

Proctor said he doubted Noguez had any intention of returning to the office.

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-- Jack Dolan

Photo: Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, right, with his attorney Michael Schafler last month. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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