First Criminal Trial in Orange County Bankruptcy Goes to the Jury
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ The first criminal trial in Orange County’s bankruptcy was in the hands of jurors who must decide if former county Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino helped swindle cities, schools and agencies out of millions.
Rubino is charged with two felony counts in the diversion of $93 million into the county’s treasury before risky investments soured, leading in December 1994 to a $1.64 billion loss and the nation’s biggest municipal bankruptcy.
The trial began Aug. 12. In giving the case to jurors Wednesday, Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger told them not to be influenced by the fall of Rubino, once a highly respected official, or to be swayed into a conviction by public opinion about the county’s financial debacle.
Instead, Czuleger said, jurors must use the facts presented in court to decide if former county Treasurer Robert L. Citron had skimmed other agencies’ earnings into the county general fund, and if Rubino had aided, promoted, encouraged or instigated the crime.
Citron pleaded guilty to six charges and has cooperated with investigators; former Citron assistant Matthew Raabe has pleaded innocent to the same six counts and is awaiting trial.
In closing arguments Tuesday, Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jan Nolan acknowledged Rubino had a sterling reputation, but said he had crossed the line into crimes.
``There are victims in this case: the schools, the cities, the water districts, the sewer districts, the transportation authorities,″ Nolan said.
``This case is about accountability,″ she said. ``There is no such verdict as, `Not guilty, but don’t do it again.‴
Rubino’s lawyer, Rodney Perlman, portrayed him as a mere county employee with no real power, who believed Citron and had no knowledge of any crime. Perlman said there was no evidence Rubino knew about or intended to further any criminal act.
``All Ron Rubino did was his job,″ Perlman said. ``What you have here is a public servant doing his job, the job he has the authority to do.″