A jury trial for Steve Pougnet is set for Dec. 15, but will it really begin?
INDIO — Steve Pougnet was one of the most successful mayors ever to lead the city of Palm Springs. In fact, a statue of Pougnet should be erected in Downtown Palm Springs on the Mercado Plaza to stand beside the bronze statue of former Mayor Sonny Bono.
Look for that defense to emerge when Malcolm Segal makes his opening arguments in the public corruption case filed against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.
“Their whole case is based on circumstantial evidence, and we don’t think the circumstances support the case,” Segal told Uken report.
Pougnet’s case, INF1901460, is scheduled for Jury Trial on Dec. 15 at 8:30 a.m. in Dept. 3T in Indio. But Segal said that will not happen due to several motions that will be, or have been, filed. The case will likely go to trial gets in the first quarter of 2023.
Pougnet and Richard Meaney were indicted in 2019 for felony counts of bribery, perjury and conspiracy in connection with an alleged scheme in which Meaney is accused of providing the mayor with money in exchange for advancing real estate developments in which he was involved.
“We plan to go to trial and dispute the charges because we do not believe they are well-founded,” Segal told Uken Report. “We don’t think there is sufficient evidence. I firmly believe Steve Pougnet is not guilty.”
Segal has been listed for more than 30 years in the national publication Best Lawyers in America.
The investigation into Pougnet began in 2017 and has drug on for more than seven years, Segal said.
“Anyone reading the charges would know this investigation has been delayed from the start,” Segal said.
Questions about Pougnet’s case began to surface after news broke that Riverside County Superior Court judges have dismissed more than 600 criminal court cases since Oct. 10, 2022. More than half of those cases were dismissed by judges in the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
Criminal cases are being dismissed throughout the county due to a lack of courtrooms and judges; however, most case dismissals have been in the eastern region of the county. There have been at least 351 cases dismissed by judges in the Larson Justice Center in Indio, where Pougnet’s trial will likely occur. These cases are both misdemeanor and felony cases and include nearly all crime types. Many of the dismissed cases include a victim of crime.
Amy McKenzie, director of communications, for the Riverside District Attorney’s office, told Uken Report that Pougnet’s trial is still on the master calendar.
“As in all cases that are being dismissed recently, this case will be treated no differently by our office,” McKenzie said. “Should the court decide to dismiss the case, we will argue against the dismissal in court. However, it will be the decision of the Judge to either grant a continuance or to dismiss the case.”
Pougnet, 59, is a Democratic politician who served as the mayor of Palm Springs from 2007 to 2015. He was elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2003.
While in public office, Pougnet wore multiple hats, including:
- Vice Chairman of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG)
- Chairman of the Energy & Water Conservation Subcommittee
- Vice Chairman of the CVAG Energy and Environment Committee
- Vice Chairman of Sunline Transit Agency, the region’s public transportation management organization
- Board Member of the Palm Springs Desert Resort Convention Visitors Authority
- Member of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.
- Riverside County Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee.
High on Pougnet’s own list of accomplishments you will find water and energy reduction, conservation and health and wellness. The Mayor’s Race, an annual run and health fair, alone raised at least $1.8 million for local and desert-wide programs that include substance abuse, family services, and a food bank.
He invited less fortunate children to attend the glamorous and star-studded Palm Springs International Film Festival, seating them front and center in chairs usually reserved for city staff. Some staff members silently fumed.
In May 2008, he released a sustainability plan and renewed the criteria as time went on. Seven years later, city staff announced that one of those more ambitious goals had been met — a 50 percent reduction in the city’s water use through irrigation and infrastructure improvements.
In October 2015, the city’s Sustainability Commission — Pougnet’s brainchild — cut the ribbon on a rehabbed energy plant, which is expected to yield an annual average utility savings to the city of $1.37 million over two decades and save millions of gallons.
He was a significant voice in the effort to preserve Chino Cone, a pristine land formation at the north end of the city. Early on in 2004, he proposed a moratorium there on development and won unanimous support through his fellow council members.
Yet he waivered over the next few years, coming to the conclusion, while sitting on a task force, that “responsible” development on the land might be the best way to go. Instead, a preservation group began buying up hundreds of acres from various owners, and soon Pougnet found himself, again, on their side.
On the same day as the city christened a rehabbed plant, Pougnet and his fellow council members agreed to pay more than $1 million for 24 acres in the Chino Cone with the hope of later transferring more land to be secured in perpetuity.
We look forward to Segal making his argument for a statue of Steve Pougnet. Stay tuned.
- Sonny Bono statue: TripAdvisor
- Steve Pougnet: Steve Pougnet