Jurors will return next week to deliberate the fate of El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting in a case that could end his career after four terms in office.
Jurors deliberated about two hours Thursday afternoon at the El Dorado County courthouse before going into recess and won’t return until Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. because of court closures.
Attorneys representing Nutting and the El Dorado District Attorney’s Office made closing arguments Thursday in a case involving alleged misrepresentation of grants Nutting received from the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Jurors will have to consider evidence presented over almost three weeks. The prosecution presented a complex case that included Nutting’s failure to report the grants on economic disclosure statements, money he received from county employees to post bail and budgets he approved for agencies that included officials who signed Nutting’s grant checks.
Nutting faces four felony charges related to his failure to disclose the grants and for allegedly having a conflict of interest for approving the fire agency budgets.
If convicted of any of the felony counts, Nutting could no longer hold elective office in California.
Nutting also faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly seeking loans from county employees to pay bail and get out of jail.
In his closing argument, county prosecutor James Clinchard said Nutting is a hypocrite for portraying himself as an anti-government politician while accepting government grants in private. Clinchard quoted former Vice President Adlai Stevenson: “A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”
In his closing argument, Nutting’s attorney David Weiner said the defense and prosecution agree on most of the facts in the case. But they disagree in their interpretation of those facts, Weiner said.
Nutting did fail to include the grants on his economic disclosure statements, but he did so inadvertently, Weiner said.
“There’s only one victim here,” Weiner said, “and it’s my client.”
Clinchard said Nutting had too much experience as a politician and a businessman to make such a mistake and said his omission was willful.
Weiner agreed that Nutting received money from county employees to pay his bail, but characterized the actions as assistance and said they don’t meet the legal definition of loans. Clinchard insisted they did meet the legal definition of loans.
Finally, Weiner said Nutting did vote for the budgets for the fire districts with officials who signed his grant checks. But he said there was no financial conflict in such votes because Cal Fire truly decided who got grants and the agency agreed Nutting deserved the grants.
Clinchard said even the potential for conflict in Nutting’s votes is enough to convict him of the charge.
Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee