Former Mayor of Adelanto, California Sentenced to Federal Prison for Accepting Pot-Related Bribes

Former mayor Richard Kerr will serve 14 months in federal prison.
Adelanto
Former Adelanto mayor Rich Kerr. Photo via Daily Press

On August 4, former Adelanto, California mayor Richard Kerr was found guilty of taking cannabis-related bribes while in office. According to coverage from the Los Angeles Times, Kerr was sentenced to federal prison for 14 months.

Initially, federal prosecutors sought to sentence Kerr to 46 months, but U.S. District Judge John W. Holcomb reconsidered the sentence because of Kerr’s age at 66 years old, in addition to his two decades of service in the Marines, as well as family-related responsibilities.

Kerr was elected as Adelanto’s mayor in 2014, a small desert city in southwestern San Bernardino County. Kerr claimed that 40% of Adelanto residents lived in poverty at the time (as of data from 2014-2018, that percentage has decreased to 26.5%) and he wanted to make the city the “Silicon Valley of medical marijuana.”

In 2017, Kerr was arrested by federal officials for taking a $10,000 cash bribe, and also trying to find someone to burn down his restaurant (called Fat Boyz Grill) so he could collect the insurance. The following year in 2018, Kerr’s house was raided by the FBI and he was seen in handcuffs outside of his home.

Later in 2021, he was charged with accepting $75,000 in bribes while in office, which influenced approval for cannabis-related ordinances and permits.

Finally in February 2023, Kerr pleaded guilty to fraud. The most recent case revealed that he considered bribery funds as donations to a charity fund.

Carlos L. Juarez, Kerr’s attorney, defended his client by claiming that he didn’t have a college education and was naïve. “He did his darnedest to serve the people but along the way got caught up in a web of political corruption,” Juarez stated. 

Kerr called his actions the result of “stupidity” and “doing dumb things.” However, he praised how the cannabis industry benefited the city, bringing “thousands of jobs and hundreds of new homes.”

However, U.S. Attorney Sean Peterson addressed the seriousness of Kerr’s actions. “It’s not that there was just one bribe. It’s serious conduct,” Peterson said, asking the judge for Kerr to serve four years in prison as an example of the consequences for others who choose a similar path.

Many witness came forth to discuss Kerr’s behavior. One local, Edwin Snell, said that Kerr promised him and his partner that they would be permitted to open a dispensary in the city, but Kerr sold the permit “to the highest bidder.” “He promised us a dispensary and Semper Fi’d it,” said Snell. “Every person that voted for him was betrayed. Every person that voted for him was hornswoggled.”

Another resident, Diana Esmeralda Holte, said in 2017 that she applied for a dispensary license, but her attempt was rejected because she wouldn’t pay a $7,000 bribe. “I think he deserves a million years, but 20 would be reasonable,” Holte said.

In his defense, Juarez said the court case and ruling is “a complete embarrassment to Kerr.” While once well-renowned and respected in the community, he has brought his family name to shame,” he described.

Kerr’s supporters wrote letters to the judge, explaining that he grew up in poverty, has issues with alcohol, suffers from emphysema (a lung disease that causes breathlessness), and supports five of his grandchildren. Kerr’s wife in particular spotlighted his more positive decisions as mayor, which included movies in the park, a public rodeo event, and food and toy drive donations during the holidays.

Former Adelanto mayor pro tem Jermaine Wright was convicted in 2022 for accepting a $10,000 bribe from an undercover federal official claiming to be a cannabis business owner. Wright was sentenced to five years in prison.

A recent podcast called “Dreamtown: Adelanto,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, covers the city’s history and corruption, as well as Kerr’s involvement in the cannabis industry. “…reporter David Weinberg delves into what happened when a newcomer on the local council helped the city legalize weed production, and documents the fallout that happened next,” wrote High Times author Molly Lipson.

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4 comments
  1. Fat Boyz Grill was owned by Jermaine Wright, a city council member of Adelanto. He was convicted of taking bribes and conspiring to burn down his restaurant, not Kerr.

  2. I have 2 Cases filed 7-17-23 and 8-9-23. Corruption in the Emerald Triangle
    Case: 22-15673, 07/17/2023, ID: 12756206, DktEntry: 42, Page 1 of 1
    Supreme Court of the United States
    Office of the Clerk
    Washington, DC 20543-0001
    Scott S. Harris
    Clerk of the 011t
    July 14, 2023
    Clerk
    United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    95 Seventh Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103-1526
    Re: Ann Marie Borges, et al.
    v. County of Mendocino, California No. 23-41
    (Your No. 22-15673)
    Dear Clerk:
    The petition for a writ of certiorari in the above entitled case was filed on July
    12, 2023 and placed on the docket July 14, 2023 as No. 23-41.
    Sincerely,
    Scott S. Harris, Clerk
    Susan Frimpong
    Case Analyst

    Second Case RICO Case #22-15741 filed 8-9-23

  3. Your reporting mixes up facts from undercover FBI informant Germaine Wright who was convicted of multiple felonies including bribery and Richard Kerr who commingled funds received in an official capacity.

    Richard Kerr was convicted for his criminal conduct of commingling money as an elected official of a city receiving federal funds. Check and funds he received for his re-election and for his Toys for Tots Christmas Program were commingled with his personal expenses therefore wire fraud and not providing honest services were the convictions, not bribery or kickbacks. His sentence of 14 months, $52,000 in fines which were then totally waived by the judge is consistent with sentencing for commingling. Bribery and kickback sentences for first offenders is 6 years in federal prison for each bribe and a fine 3 times the bribe amount.

    The federal judge permitted the filing of an Amicus Curie letter by Person A but the federal prosecutor and defense attorneys objected to PERSON A addressing the court or attendees as to the actual facts.

    The FBI and DOJ issued an early press release in 2018 regarding Kerr for which they could not encounter any facts because such illegal conduct never occurred with respect to Person A, B, C, D or any other Adelanto citizen or licensee. The FBI simply couched the ending judgment of Kerr with a story unfounded in facts to save face and lawsuits from their previous publishing of an unfounded working theory before conducting a proper investigation.

    I recommend you research the complete court file and read and discover the real facts as contained in Person A’s court filed Amicus Curie Letter regarding Kerr’s conviction as being unrelated the facts.

    It is clear if Person was allowed to testify the Judge could not accept Kerr’s plea as based on the truth.

    The federal prosecutor and attending FBI Agent were each asked numerous times at the courtroom door why wasn’t Person A, B,C, D, E and others charged with bribery and kickbacks along with Kerr if it were true as it takes 2 to tango however each remained silent in front the attendees and attorneys attending the hearing.

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