- Steve Pougnet, a former Palm Springs mayor who has been charged with accepting bribes from local businessmen, surrendered at the Riverside jail on Wednesday.
- He was charged with taking $350,000 in bribes and is connected with the Clinton Foundation.
Former Mayor Steve Pougnet is connected with the Clinton Foundation.
- Pougnet ignored all questions as he entered the jail and would not make eye contact with a reporter who attempted to speak to him about his case.
- Pougnet then waited in the jail lobby for about 30 minutes, before being escorted upstairs to be booked.
- Deputies said the process would take several hours, at which point Pougnet was expected to pay bail and be released.
- Pougnet’s attorney, Malcolm Segal, also refused questions but said he might release a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Development stops with the arrest of Palm Springs Mayor and developers charged with significant “pay to play” bribery.
- When a reporter repeatedly tried to question Pougnet in the jail lobby, Segal said he would have deputies remove the reporter from jail for “being disruptive.”
- “This is not the time to answer questions,” Segal said.
Former Palm Springs Mayor heads to jail.
Jail records show Pougnet will make his first court appearance at an arraignment on April 21. If convicted of all the charges, Pougnet, 53, would be barred for life from holding public office and face a potential maximum sentence of 19 years in state prison, the DA’s Office said.
Late Wednesday, Segal issued a statement saying Pougnet planned to enter a not guilty plea at his upcoming court hearing.
“Mayor Pougnet believes he worked very hard and diligently for the people of Palm Springs and these charges are not well founded,” Segal said. “He expects to contest them …”
Mayor Pougnet with developers facing major criminal charges.
Although brief, Pougnet’s visit to the jail marked his unglamorous return to Riverside County. The former mayor moved full time to Denver after he left office at the end of 2015, and hasn’t been seen publicly in Palm Springs ever since.
Pougnet will be prosecuted alongside two developers – John Wessman and Richard Meaney – who are accused of paying him about $375,000 to vote favorably on their projects. The money was allegedly moved through shell companies, Union Abbey and Mitchell-Brix, which pretended to hire Pougnet as a consultant. Pougnet is also accused of criminal conflict of interest and lying on financial disclosure forms.
Pougnet also got $22,000 from a local construction company.
“Richard Meaney and John Wessman were working together to bribe the mayor, so the money was apparently traveling from the developers to the mayor,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at a press conference last week announcing the charges. “This is a large amount of money that was paid to the mayor for his influence on the City Council.”
Meaney and Wessman surrendered similarly last week, paying a $25,000 bail each. They also paid bail and were not held in jail. Wessman is due to make his first appearance in court on March 16. Meaney’s first court appearance will be in late April.