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Councilman pleads not guilty in real estate case

July 06, 2007|From the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista city councilman pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of lying to a county grand jury investigating his real estate dealings.

Steve Castaneda entered the plea in San Diego Superior Court to an indictment alleging 13 felony counts of perjury and two misdemeanor counts of failing to disclose income on a public form.

Castaneda, 47, a councilman since 2004 who lost a race for mayor last year, was under investigation by the grand jury over an apartment rental deal.

According to the indictment, Castaneda lied when asked under oath whether he had tried to use his status as a City Council member to pressure a sales representative at an apartment complex to let him keep a move-in rebate for which he did not qualify.

He also allegedly failed to disclose $30,000 in income from a property sale on forms submitted to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

"He asserts his innocence," said Castaneda's attorney, Marc Carlos.

Castaneda claimed earlier this year that Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis was conducting a "political witch hunt" in order to force his resignation.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick O'Toole said his office first heard allegations against Castaneda in April 2006, shortly before the mayoral election, but did not launch an investigation until after the election.

O'Toole rejected claims that the probe was politically motivated. "Nothing was done to hurt him politically," he said.

Castaneda, who has been released on his own recognizance, faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted, officials said.

Trial was scheduled for Oct. 22.

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