A San Bernardino city councilman and mayoral candidate pleaded guilty Thursday to a perjury charge after he spent money raised for his political campaigns on non-campaign expenses and lied about it in documents, prosecutors said.
Chas Kelley resigned from the council seat he had held since 2003 and withdrew from the mayor's race weeks before election day. As part of the plea agreement, Kelley, 44, will be sentenced to 90 days in county jail and will serve five years' probation, according to a statement from the San Bernardino County district attorney's office.
In a prepared statement announcing his resignation, Kelley said he had made a "terrible mistake" and apologized for the "embarrassment" brought about by the charge.
"My failure to properly report campaign expenses and contributions is a criminal violation that I am deeply embarrassed about," he said. "Although I have already taken action to correct my campaign reporting errors, I nevertheless am taking full responsibility for my mistakes and accepting the legal consequences."
He added: "Some elected officials would choose to fight such matters in court to the bitter end, but I believe our city and our county have suffered enough from political controversy and that the proper course of action is resignation."
In an unrelated case, Riverside County prosecutors announced Thursday that another San Bernardino councilman, Robert Jenkins, 33, has been charged with 18 felonies and 12 misdemeanor crimes related to identity theft and stalking.
Prosecutors said Jenkins posted advertisements on Craigslist seeking sex partners and directed those who replied to his two alleged victims, whose names, photographs and addresses he would give out. Prosecutors said that Jenkins knew one of the victims and that the second had a relationship with the first. Both people live in Riverside County.
Jenkins is set to be arraigned in December.
Prosecutors began investigating Kelley after a 2011 complaint and found that he had failed to disclose more than $74,000 on documents related his Friends of Chas Kelley campaign account. In a statement admitting his guilt, Kelley said he falsely reported money in the account in order to "hide the fact that I was using the money improperly for non-campaign related purposes."
San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos said in a statement that Kelley's actions were a disappointment to the voters who elect officials with hoping they will serve in the public's best interests. "Let this be yet another warning that public corruption will not be tolerated in the county of San Bernardino," Ramos said.
Kelley's attorney, Greg Kassel, said Kelley chose to take the plea deal because he could have faced as many as 18 counts rather than one, and he wanted to spare his family from a lengthy incarceration.
Kassel argued that, despite the charges, Kelley had otherwise been a dedicated public servant, and stepping away from politics would be difficult for him.
"This doesn't circumvent the fact he's served for all these years for San Bernardino," he said. "It's extremely difficult," he said of Kelley's resignation, "but he has to do so because of the charges."
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