Attorneys dispute unprecedented criminal charges for Perez

H.A. Sala, the attorney representing Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, speaks about charges his client is facing stemming from a conflict-of-interest investigation Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - As Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez faces criminal charges for violating a conflict of interest law, her attorneys argue she's being singled out and prosecuted too harshly.

The last time a Kern County elected official was charged with attempting to influence a government decision in which he has a financial interest, the case was settled with a $3,000 fine and never faced criminal charges. That was in 2016 when the state's Fair Political Practices Commission investigated City Councilman Bob Smith.

Perez, who District Attorney Lisa Green criminally charged with violating the same law, could face possible jail time and a temporary ban from running for office.

"It's different because this case was investigated by the DAs office, I don't know if that case was refereed to our office," Green said in response to comparing Perez's violation to Smith's.

"I'm unfamiliar with city councilman Smith's facts of that case," Green said.

But Eyewitness News exclusively obtained a letter the FPPC sent Green in 2015 asking for her office's involvement in investigating Smith.

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The letter states in part, "If you are interested in working with us on this matter, please contact us.Otherwise we will proceed with our inquiry independently and notify you of the disposition of the case after it is concluded."

Green responded, saying her office has no record of the letter from the FPPC and to her knowledge it never made it's way to her hands. But she knows an investigator in her office did respond to the letter months after it was sent.

H.A. Sala, the attorney representing Perez, says Smith's case was widely reported by the media in 2016 and not something that would go unnoticed.

"For her office to say, or for her to say she didn't know about it, that's a convenient response. And we don't buy it," Sala said.

Perez's attorneys say they are preparing to prove Perez is being singled out, claiming disparate treatment.

"There's no reason this case belongs in the criminal courts no reason at all," Sala said.

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