District attorney ends bid for reelection

Redlands Daily Facts, 2002-03-15
By Chris Nguyen Staff Writer

District Attorney Dennis Stout is giving up his bid for a third term as the county's top prosecutor.

Stout announced his withdrawal from the race for district attorney a week after he finished second in the primary election, behind Deputy District Attorney Mike Ramos, who won 42.7 percent of the vote.

Stout won 35.3 percent of the vote, and a third candidate, defense attorney Frank H. Guzman, garnered 21.9 percent.

Both Ramos and Guzman had attacked Stout's handling of the investigation into corruption in the county.

Stout and Ramos were headed for a runoff in November, and while Stout has publicly stepped out of the race, state law requires that his name remain on the ballot.

In a prepared statement, Stout said further pursuit of the position he's held since January 1995 would be futile.

"After much soul searching last weekend, and analyzing the results of the primary election, I arrived at the conclusion that further prolonging the district attorney's race would be pointless," he said.

"The voters have given me the message that they desire change," he said. "With that in mind, I am withdrawing from the campaign today and will no longer expend time or effort in seeking re-election to a third term."

Ramos said Stout's decision is appropriate.

"Mr. Stout saw the writing on the wall," he said.

While Stout plans to stop campaigning, Ramos said he will not.

"We need to continue to go out and make contact with people," Ramos said. "It will be nice that it won't be an adversarial campaign."

Ramos said Stout will help familiarize him with the district attorney's position by including Ramos in top-level management meetings.

"I have been preparing myself for this job for years," Ramos said.

County supervisors said Stout's decision is honorable and wise.

"He and his office have been through a lot, and this is the right thing to do," Supervisor Bill Postmus said.

Supervisor Dennis Hansberger also said Stout was right to step aside, but added that he had expected Stout to fight harder to be re-elected.

In the months leading up to the March primary, Stout trailed Ramos in fund-raising.

Ramos brought in five times more campaign money than Stout did between January and June of last year, according to county records. Ramos collected $78,413 to Stout's $15,619.

While both men are Republicans, Ramos this week was endorsed for the nonpartisan post by the county's three Democratic state legislators.

Stout's backers included State Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga and police officers associations from Ontario and San Bernardino.

Stout's achievements as district attorney have been overshadowed by a scandal involving former Rialto Councilman Ed Scott, who ran against Supervisor Jerry Eaves in 2001.During his campaign, Scott told members of a task force consisting of the Sheriff's Department, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles that top district attorney's officials offered to help him defeat Eaves, whom they were investigating.

In January 2000, authorities began recording Scott's conversations with Stout, Assistant District Attorney Dan Lough and Chief Investigator Barry Bruins.

An internal investigation concluded that the conduct of Lough and Bruins was inappropriate but not criminal. Stout demoted both men after transcripts of the conversations were made public.

Lough and Bruins have alleged that the investigation, which they claim was politically motivated, destroyed their careers. They also criticize Stout for refusing to oppose release of the transcripts.

Brulte, a longtime supporter of Stout, said the District Attorney's Office made a mistake, but Stout took the blame for it.

"It's not news when the district attorney does his job well. It is news when the DA makes a mistake," Brulte said. "People in politics understand that one mistake can wipe out 100 huge successes."

In October, Lough and Bruins sued the county, Stout and nine other defendants for defamation and violating their civil rights.

On Thursday, Lough and Bruins said Stout led a successful administration but they criticized his handling of the Eaves case.

"He's come to the realization that the community will not tolerate that kind of behavior," Scott said.

Stout's administration also has been excluded from the corruption task force because of information leaks before the scandal over the District Attorney's Office's involvement with Scott.

Those leaks led authorities to question whether the District Attorney's Office should participate.

Ramos said he plans to make the office more involved with the ongoing federal and local corruption investigation in San Bernardino County.

"We're going to work together," Ramos said.

Staff Writers Andrew Silva and Felisa Cardona contributed to this report.District attorney ends bid for reelection.