SANTA ANA — The judge in the trial of ex-Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino denied a request Friday to acquit the defendant on charges that he helped to divert nearly $100 million belonging to cities, schools and other agencies that had deposited their funds in the county-run investment pool.
The decision by visiting Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger means that the jury of 11 women and one man probably will determine Rubino's fate at the end of the case.
Rubino's defense attorney, Rodney M. Perlman, made the motion for acquittal after prosecutors closed their case.
In his motion, Perlman said prosecutors presented no evidence that Rubino had knowledge of Citron's plan to divert money from the investment pool into a special account that was then used to generate interest for the county.
Prosecutors also failed to prove that Rubino assisted Citron or anyone else in committing a crime, Perlman contended.
"The only act that took place is the act of good budgeting," Perlman said. Rubino "was just a soldier following orders."
Perlman said he kept his arguments for acquittal brief because he sensed that Czuleger was planning to deny the motion.
Even before listening to Perlman's arguments about why the case should be ended Friday, the judge talked about admitting some prosecution exhibits into evidence on Monday, a clear sign he was not going to dismiss the case before it reached the jury. Such motions are rarely granted.
Czuleger said he agreed with arguments by Assistant Dist. Atty. Brent Romney that the law required the judge--for purposes of such motions--to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution.
"The standard is met," Czuleger ruled.
During the last two weeks, prosecutors have attempted to show that Rubino, 44, helped skim millions into a reserve account where it could earn an additional interest for the county. Rubino, the prosecutors say, aided the diversion to enhance his career.
Perlman has consistently argued that Rubino was a mid-level county employee who was simply following county policies and his bosses' orders. Rubino was not aware of any illegal skimming operation and doubts that it even occurred, Perlman has said.
The defense will begin its case Monday.