INDIO — As his attorney vowed, former Palm Springs Mayor Stephen Pougnet pleaded not guilty Thursday to several counts of bribery and corruption involving developments in Downtown Palm Springs.

Also pleading not guilty were John Wessman and Richard Meaney, both businessmen in the Coachella Valley.

Stephen Pougnet Expects to be Fully Vindicated

Stephen Pougnet

Media coverage of the accusations has been breathless and prosecutorial in nature. Pougnet has, for all intents and purposes, already been convicted in the media with one-sided coverage, his supporters say. But there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when the storyline will change, his attorney vows.

Pougnet, 56, is accused of accepting as much as $375,000 from businessmen John Wessman, 80, and Richard Meaney, 53, between 2012 and 2014. Prosecutors have repeatedly alleged Pougnet would in turn promote the developers’ projects.

Pougnet, a wildly popular two-term mayor and former Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, was indicted on 21 counts. Meaney and Wessman each were indicted on 10 counts. Each defendant is free on $25,000 bail. They were arrested in 2017.

Following is the complete statement Pougnet’s attorney released following the former mayor’s indictment in August.

“Steve Pougnet was a terrific mayor and always did his very best for the city of Palm Springs and its citizens,” Pougnet’s attorney, Malcolm Segal said in a statement. “I am sure that the citizens of Palm Springs will find it shocking that just a few of his non-controversial votes, which simply joined those of the other City Council members on projects which have rejuvenated the City of Palm Springs, form the basis for these allegations by the District Attorney. That is completely self-evident when citizens and visitors stroll around in Palm Springs’ renovated and very attractive down town.

“This case has been delayed by the slow production of thousands of documents required of the District Attorney,” Segal continued. “The Grand Jury filing is just another step in the legal process through which Steve Pougnet will have the matter heard by a jury.  He will again plead not guilty and expects to be fully vindicated when all the facts are presented to an impartial jury.”

It offers a small glimpse into what Pougnet’s defense might include.

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