A state appeals court panel Friday ordered a judge to dismiss the case against former Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, who is charged with more than two dozen criminal counts including grand theft, embezzlement of public funds and accepting a bribe.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the case against Noguez and two other defendants, Mark McNeil, once one of Noguez’s chief appraisers, and tax consultant Ramin Salari, must be dismissed because Los Angeles County prosecutors did not file legal paperwork in a timely fashion after the three were ordered to stand trial in 2018.
“We conclude petitioners are entitled to the dismissal they seek, which, we note, is not a bar to another prosecution for the same felony offenses,” the appellate court panel wrote in its 10-page ruling.
The decision also applies to a second case in which Salari is charged with tax evasion.
“We are reviewing the decision and deciding on our next step, which may include appealing the decision or simply refiling the charges,” Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said shortly after the ruling was released.
Defense attorneys for the three contended that the case had to be dismissed because the prosecution did not file an “information” detailing the charges against the defendants within the required 15-day deadline after their preliminary hearing. A judge denied that request, prompting the defense attorneys to ask the appellate court to intervene in the case.
The appellate court panel noted in its ruling that the document was filed 25 days after the three were ordered to stand trial — 10 days too late.
“We were confident we were going to win based upon the law,” Noguez’s attorney, Anthony Falangetti, told City News Service. “Any time as a defense attorney you get the case against your client dismissed … you hope that the D.A.’s Office will take some time and re-evaluate the case.”
Noguez’s attorney noted that he expects prosecutors to “proceed forward again at some level.”
Noguez — who is also known by the name Juan Renaldo Rodriguez — was charged along with McNeil and Salari in 2012. The three had been awaiting trial on the case, pending the appellate court panel’s decision.
When the charges were filed, then-District Attorney Steve Cooley said, “Criminal charges filed against the assessor allege that instead of acting in the best interests of the citizens of Los Angeles County he turned his back on them to engineer assessment reductions for those who paid for favored treatment.”
Salari “is accused of bribing the assessor to win big tax breaks for his clients while lining the assessor’s pockets with cash,” Cooley said then, alleging that the assessor appointed McNeil as head of the Major Appraisal Division “to ensure that Salari’s clients got tax breaks, ranging in some cases to $150,000 or more per piece of property.”
When the case was filed, Noguez was on leave while investigators probed allegations that his office reduced property tax assessments in exchange for campaign contributions.
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