John Bujak now faces two different felony cases after a Canyon County grand jury indicted him on a grand theft charge Wednesday.
Bujak is accused of stealing several thousand dollars from the estate of a client he had before being elected Canyon County prosecutor in 2009 — but Bujak said Thursday that estate has been “fully compensated” and insisted the first prosecutor to examine the case suggested it could be resolved without criminal charges being filed.
Bujak already is awaiting a jury trial in September on a felony charge for misuse of public funds in connection with his handling of money from a contract the county prosecutor’s office had to prosecute cases for the city of Nampa.
Bujak spent about 14 hours in the Ada County Jail on the grand theft charge before posting a $50,000 bond and being released at about 11 a.m. Thursday. Jail records do not say who paid Bujak’s bond, which would have required a $5,000 payment. In a letter to the Idaho Statesman Thursday, Bujak said he posted his own bond.
The financial resources available to Bujak have become a public issue: The Canyon County commissioners last week asked a court to reject Bujak’s publicly paid defense lawyers, saying he can afford to pay for his legal defense himself.
An arraignment when Bujak will enter a plea will be scheduled in the next few weeks.
The grand jury found that Bujak “exercised unauthorized control over multiple checks” for more than $1,000 that were the property of the estate of M. K. Littleton “with the intent to deprive the estate of the property or to appropriate the property to himself,” according to court records.
Bujak told the Statesman Thursday that Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs was the first to examine the Littleton case and suggested it be combined with the Nampa case in an attempt at “a global resolution.”
Canyon officials say the theft occurred before Bujak was prosecutor and also while he was in office but declined further comment. Grand jury testimony is secret, so it is unclear what evidence prosecutors have that Bujak was stealing from Littleton’s estate, how he did it or how much money was involved.
Bujak questioned Thursday why Malheur County (Ore.) District Attorney Daniel Norris, who is now handling the case for Canyon County, took it to a grand jury, which Bujak said is usually used for sex or drug cases with confidential informants. Bujak also questioned why prosecutors didn’t tell him about the indictment or allow him to turn himself in. Bujak also called the $50,000 bond “incredibly high.”
The new grand theft charge is apparently connected to events that led to a complaint filed against Bujak with the Idaho State Bar’s professional conduct board in October. The complaint focused on Bujak’s handling of two clients before he became county prosecutor. In the Littleton case, Bar officials say there is evidence Bujak wrongfully took $3,780 in payments intended for the estate in 2008 rather than passing the money on to the client’s new attorney, Randolph Farber.
Farber eventually filed a grievance with the state bar.
The Idaho Client Assistance Fund Committee, which investigated the case, determined Bujak “engaged in dishonest conduct.”
Bujak resigned as Canyon prosecutor in 2010. He had his law license suspended in January.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr