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Merced judge delays hearing on housing nonprofit Firm Build

A judge won't decide until early next year whether the case against Firm Build's managers can go to trial.

The complex case with five defendants is slowly weaving through the court system, with some lawyers working to get the charges dropped.

Kirk McAllister, representing Rudy Buendia III, filed a request to quash the 16 felonies against his client, who managed the construction nonprofit that used public money to teach at-risk teens to become carpenters.

Merced County Superior Court Judge Ronald W. Hansen tentatively denied the motion Thursday, though he continued the hearing to Wednesday so McAllister, unable to attend because he was ill, could argue.

Buendia III, Firm Build President Patrick Bowman, manager Joe Cuellar and secretary Christina Ledezma face felony charges tied to the nonprofit's bankruptcy last year.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or