SANTA ANA — A judge Friday postponed the trial of former Orange County Assistant Treasurer Matthew Raabe until March 5 to give his lawyers more time to digest new material from the ongoing criminal investigation of the bankruptcy.
Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey said he would grant the extension "provided there are no more continuances" and noted that the delay was necessary "in light of what must be reviewed, some of which is not a public record."
The judge was referring to testimony before the current grand jury about the role played by the county's financial advisors and their agents in the $1.64-billion trading loss suffered by the county-run investment pool that prompted the bankruptcy.
Witnesses, including officials from Merrill Lynch & Co. and other financial firms that did business with the county, have been called to testify. Raabe is entitled to review any testimony about his actions.
Raabe was charged in May 1995 with the same six felony counts of securities fraud and misappropriation to which his former boss, Robert L. Citron, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to a year in county jail and fined $100,000. Neither man was accused of personally profiting from the alleged misappropriation.
Raabe, a certified public accountant who worked for the county auditor before joining the treasurer's office, has denied any wrongdoing and maintained he was only following orders from a domineering Citron.
Raabe, who has been free on his own recognizance, appeared in court Friday and agreed to push back the Jan. 21 trial date.
Gary M. Pohlson, one of Raabe's lawyers, told the court he may take an issue up on a writ to the 4th District Court of Appeal. Pohlson did not describe the issue in open court.
After the hearing, Richard L. Schwartzberg, who also represents Raabe, said that because the matter was discussed "in confidential proceedings," he could not elaborate on it.
However, Presiding Superior Court Judge Theodore E. Millard said the issue involved his denial of a request for money to hire an expert to survey potential jury members to see whether they would be influenced by publicity from the recent trial of former County Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino.
Rubino's case ended in a mistrial, with jurors voting 9 to 3 to acquit him of bankruptcy-related charges. Millard said Raabe's attorneys wanted to do the survey because some jurors after the mistrial "opined that Raabe was responsible."
Millard said he had earlier denied the request and then declined this week to hold an "in camera" hearing on the matter when Raabe's attorneys sought one.
"I indicated that I had ruled on the matter twice and didn't have any intention of doing so again," Millard said.
Millard said the court has ample means to ensure an impartial panel and was able to seat one for Rubino's trial.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Matthew S. Anderson and Raabe's lawyers asked the judge for a pool of 300 jurors.
Opening arguments could be heard by March 24, and the trial could be completed by first of May.
A pretrial conference was set for Feb. 21.