A day before a hotly contested election in which San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis is seeking a fourth term, evidence surfaced Monday that suggested she was closer to a foreign businessman indicted on political corruption charges than she previously acknowledged.
At a hearing in federal court, her main opponent, Robert Brewer, asked a judge to loosen a protective order to allow a letter that Dumanis wrote on behalf of a relative of Jose Susumo Azano Matsura to become public.
The judge turned down the request. The Dumanis campaign, contacted later by reporters, had no comment.
The letter, written on district attorney letterhead, was in support of an application by a relative of Azano to attend the University of San Diego. It was written to Mary Lyons, president of the university.
Brewer said the letter indicates that there was "a quid pro quo for the $200,000-plus that he [Azano] paid to benefit her campaign."
The campaign was Dumanis' unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2012. The money includes $100,000 to an independent committee supporting Dumanis and another $100,000 to a social media effort supporting her, according to a federal indictment.
Dumanis has not been charged in the case, in which Azano, a Mexican national living in Coronado, was indicted on a charge of violating a federal law that bans foreigners from making political contributions. Azano has pleaded not guilty.
The letter was written in September 2012 after Dumanis was defeated in a mayoral primary and months before Azano and others were indicted.
Brewer told District Judge Michael Anello that the letter "goes to integrity" because it appears to contradict Dumanis' earlier statements.
The letter is covered by a standard protective order involving documents gathered during a federal investigation.
Assistant U.S. Atty. William Cole opposed modifying the protective order to allow the letter to become public.
"We are simply following what is our very standard practice" involving protective orders, Cole said.
The request to change the order was made by Azano attorney Knut Johnson. Brewer, who said he learned about the letter on Friday, filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
Dumanis, 62, was elected district attorney in 2002, defeating incumbent Paul Pfingst. She was reelected in 2006 and 2010 without opposition.
But this year, Brewer, a former prosecutor and longtime defense attorney, and former prosecutor Terri Wyatt challenged Dumanis. If no candidate gets more 50% of the vote, the two top vote-getters advance to a runoff in November.