State

Riverbank councilman Jesse James White faces drug charges

Riverbank City Councilman Jesse James White has been charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana.

The Stanislaus County district attorney's office filed the charges Wednesday, nearly a month after White was arrested during a probation search. Sheriff's deputies said they found small amounts of the drugs during the search.

This is the latest setback for White, who has faced calls for him to resign from some of his fellow council members and residents. A group that tried to recall White last year is mounting a second attempt.

White, 21, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court on one count of felony possession of cocaine and two counts of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Authorities said marijuana was found in White's apartment and vehicle.

His attorney said White will plead not guilty, and she has evidence that her client is innocent.

"We have a statement from someone in that house that Jesse James White did not possess any drugs," Modesto attorney Mary Lynn Belsher said. "The drugs belonged to someone else. He is prepared to testify that the drugs did not belong to Jesse."

Belsher said the witness is a friend who occasionally stays with White in his downtown Riverbank apartment. She said the friend had left for work and was not home when deputies conducted the May 14 probation search.

She declined to release the friend's name and said she believed she could not provide The Bee with a copy of her investigation because of her ethical and legal obligations to White. But Belsher said she provided a copy to prosecutors June 2 and has not heard from them.

"It's all going to come out," Belsher said. "It's one more example of the district attorney's office ignoring the true facts and wasting time and money for everyone."

The district attorney's office had said it would wait until after Tuesday's primary election before deciding whether to file charges against White to avoid any suggestion that prosecutors would attempt to influence voters.

White was one of six Republican candidates in the primary for the 25th Assembly District, which stretches from Modesto to Madera. He finished sixth.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said legal ethics bar her from commenting on the facts and evidence of ongoing cases. But she said her office takes its responsibilities seriously.

"We are under an obligation to only file charges that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt," she said. "Each case is looked at on its own merits."

White did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Shipley said White faces a maximum of three years in prison if he is convicted. But he could be placed on probation.

White was placed on three years' informal misdemeanor probation June 4, 2007, after he pleaded no contest to "wet and reckless" driving.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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