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Palm Springs corruption suspects plead not guilty at arraignment

Trio accused in Palm Springs corruption

INDIO, Calif.- - UPDATE: Former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers Richard Meaney and John Wessman were arraigned Thursday morning on the new grand jury indictment; all pled not guilty. 

The judge carried over the previously posted bonds and bail. A trial readiness conference and motion date was set for October 18. 

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ORIGINAL STORY: Former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers Richard Meaney and John Wessman are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. The trio was indicted on bribery, perjury and other charges last month.

News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia will be in the courtroom for the arraignment. Watch News Channel 3 at Noon, 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. for live updates You can also follow Jake on Twitter @JakeKESQ for live tweets detailing what's going on.

Meaney and Wessman are accused of paying Pougnet at least $375,000 to buy votes and influence on several lucrative projects in Palm Springs like the downtown redevelopment project. Authorities say the bribery is believed to have occurred between 2012 and 2014.

 

Conflict of interest allegations first surfaced against Pougnet in 2015. In Sep. 2015, the FBI and Inland Empire Public Corruption Task Force confiscated information from computer servers and piles of documents at Palm Springs City Hall. Nearly a year-and-a-half later, in Feb. 2017, the District Attorney's office filed charges against the trio. All three pleaded not guilty in October 2017. 

Check Out Our "Scandal At City Hall Section" For All Our Coverage

The case saw multiple delays until finally, on August 16, 2019, the trio was indicted by a Grand Jury.

 The thirty count indictment includes nine counts of accepting bribe of an executive officer, nine counts of bribing an executive officer, eight counts of conflict of interest, three counts of perjury and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. 

Pougnet was indicted on 21 counts and Meaney and Wessman were each indicted on 10 counts.

If convicted on all charges, Pougnet faces up to 19 years in state prison and will be barred for life from being able to hold public office. Meaney and Wessman could each face a sentence of 12 years in prison.


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