A San Diego Superior Court judge has denied a motion by prosecutors requesting the South Bay school construction cases be adjudicated in the downtown San Diego courthouse, instead of the South County branch.
The motion was heard and denied Tuesday morning by Judge Timothy Walsh at the downtown branch. San Diego Superior Court spokesperson Karen Dalton did not have specific information on what led to the decision.
Prosecutors in the San Diego County District Attorney’s office motioned for the change of venue on Jan. 30, when 14 defendants in the cases were scheduled for arraignment at the South County branch in Chula Vista.
At least one defense attorney in the cases, Marc Carlos, who represents Sweetwater Union High School District board member Pearl Quinones, voiced support for the prosecution’s motion.
Carlos said following the Jan. 30 hearing that holding the cases downtown would provide a more fair trial for his client and the other defendants.
The arraignments scheduled for Jan. 30 were postponed until Feb. 15. With the change of venue motion denied Tuesday, those arraignments will be held as scheduled at the South County branch and heard by San Diego Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sontag. The denial keeps the proceedings from changing venue for a second time, as the cases had already been moved to the South County branch in late January after earlier proceedings were heard in downtown San Diego.
Quinones is one of four active board members at Sweetwater Union to be facing charges. The other defendants include fellow Sweetwater Union board members Jim Cartmill, Bertha Lopez and Arlie Ricasa; Yolanda Hernandez and Manuel Paul, both of the San Ysidro School District governing board; Jeff Flores, president of Seville Construction Services; John Wilson, Yolanda Salcido, Jorge Dominguez, Raj Chopra and Nicholas Alioto -- all former Southwestern College officials; former Sweetwater Union board member Greg Sandoval; and Sweetwater Union’s former superintendent Jesus Gandara. Bond manager Gary Cabello has already pleaded guilty to five criminal charges, including bribery.
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