RANCHO CUCAMONGA - There's still no trial date scheduled for the two men accused of misappropriating $5.5 million in taxpayer funds meant for California charter schools.
In the five and a half years since California Charter Academy founder C. Steven Cox and former Hesperia mayor Tad Honeycutt were indicted in September 2007 on 117 felony charges between them, they've appeared in court 28 times, and they're not done yet.
At the time it went out of business in August 2004, CCA operated 36 campuses around California.
An April 2005 audit commissioned by the state Department of Education accused the pair, along with a number of High Desert elected officials of misappropriating $23 million in state and federal funds.
Charges were ultimately filed against Cox and Honeycutt - the two mentioned most often in the audit, by a wide margin - alleging the charter school management made $5.5 million payments to Honeycutt's for-profit subsidiary without the school board's approval or awareness.
Cox is charged with 56 counts of misappropriation of public funds, 56 counts of grand theft and a single count of failing to file a tax return. If convicted, he faces up to 64 years in prison.
Honeycutt was charged with 15 counts of misappropriation of public funds, 15 counts of grand theft, three counts of failure to file a state tax return and a single count of filing a false tax return. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
The pair had a hard time finding a judge to hear their case, apparently due to Honeycutt's extensive political connections in the High Desert. He was the third member of his family to be elected to public office from Hesperia; he was a city councilman from 2000 to 2008. His father, Theron, was a councilman from 1991 to 1995. His mother, Kathleen, represented the 34th Assembly District from 1993 to 1994. A friend and ally to former county assessor Bill Postmus, Honeycutt was also active in Republican politics, raising funds that ultimately helped a number of officials get elected.
One judge after another in Victorville Superior Court recused themselves from the case, and it was moved to Fontana and then to Rancho Cucamonga as a result.
At the same time, Cox has had a hard time keeping a defense attorney, going through four since he was indicted. His third attorney died suddenly in November 2010 and his fourth attorney withdrew, citing a conflict of interest.
Cox's current lawyer, Rancho Cucamonga defense attorney Geoff Newman, who has been assigned to Cox's case since February 2012, has to master the more than 52,000 pages of discovery and 456 exhibits that had been presented to the grand jury in the CCA case. Evidence presented by the defense will likely raise the page count even higher.
Supervising deputy district attorney Michael Fermin will be meeting with Newman in March to go over the evidence, he told Judge Jon Ferguson on Friday.
As for Cox and Honeycutt, the pair's next pre-trial hearing will be April 26 in Rancho Cucamonga.