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Former Adelanto Mayor Richard Kerr admitted Jan. 13 to granting marijuana licenses to people who bribed him. He also pleaded guilty to shaping ordinances and drafting commercial marijuana zones in favor of his bribers. He admitted to a minimum of $57,500 in bribes from at least three people, each of which remained unnamed in the plea deal. One of them operated a plaintiff-side tort litigation firm in San Bernardino County, according to the indictment.

Kerr was Adelanto mayor from 2015 to 2018. The bribers disguised them as gifts, donations to a charity, donations to his election campaign or advance payments for the proceeds of planned litigation due to a motorcycle accident, the plea deal says. 

Kerr’s successor as mayor, Jermaine Wright, was convicted June 22 of also taking bribes related to marijuana zoning and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The attorney purchased a building in Adelanto in September, 2016, that had been a restaurant, according to the indictment. Kerr requested to expand Adelanto’s medical marijuana dispensary zones to include the attorney’s building Nov. 29, 2016. Kerr deposited a $5,000 check from the attorney’s estate trust account into his own bank account Dec. 5, 2016. The check was dated Nov. 29, 2016, and the memo line read “ADV XMAS FUND.”

The attorney, with a family member, submitted plans Feb. 15, 2017, to remodel the building to be an attorney’s office, but with new items such as “elongated sales counters,” a “dispensing room,” a “cashier,” and a “security room,” the indictment said.

Kerr deposited a $10,000 check from the attorney’s law firm with the memo “PLAINTIFF ADVANCE” Feb. 28, 2017.

He voted to finalize the medical marijuana zone to include the attorney’s building May 24, 2017. He deposited a third check from the law firm, with a value of $10,000, June 21, 2017. He approved granting dispensary permits to the attorney’s building Sept. 22, 2017, the indictment says.

He officially pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving deprivation of honest services. He was originally charged on seven counts of wire fraud and two counts of bribery concerning federal funds. His deal drops the remaining charges.

Trial was set for Sept. 26, but was continued three times, and would have been held Jan. 23.

The plea agreement was filed Jan. 12, and a change of plea hearing is scheduled for Feb. 17.

Case information

Sean Peterson and Julius Nam prosecuted.

Sole practitioner Carlos Juarez of Riverside represented Kerr.

Case No. 5:21-cr-00174.

Read the indictment here.

Read the plea deal here.


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