Sen. Dianne Feinstein has sued her former treasurer, Kinde Durkee, alleging that Durkee embezzled millions from her campaign accounts. But as the FBI continues to build its criminal case against Durkee, Feinstein's lawsuit has been put on hold.
This morning, Judge Richard Neidorf granted Durkee's request to postpone her deposition indefinitely. Durkee's attorney had argued that allowing the civil case to proceed while federal charges are still pending would violate her right against self-incrimination.
The delay makes it less likely that Feinstein, or any of Durkee's other victims, will get any of their money back before the 2012 election.
Feinstein's attorney, Justin Berger, argued against the delay.
“Every day that passes, the less likely it is the funds will be found,” he said.
Feinstein appears to have lost nearly $5 million, making her by far the biggest victim of the Durkee scandal. She is up for re-election next year, and has already written her campaign a $5 million check to cover her losses.
Durkee was arrested on Sept. 2 and charged with embezzling nearly $700,000 in campaign funds from Assemblyman Jose Solorio.
In addition to delaying Durkee's deposition, Judge Neidorf also postponed the deposition of her husband, John Forgy. Though Forgy has not been charged, he remains under FBI investigation, his lawyer said.
Neidorf did allow Feinstein's attorneys to proceed with their case against First California Bank, which is where Durkee kept most of her accounts. Feinstein's lawsuit alleges that the bank failed to catch numerous red flags, and therefore should be liable for the losses.
First California's attorney, Lance Etcheverry, argued that the bank will
be at a disadvantage if it cannot question Durkee about her activity.
“The bank won't have a fair trial without Durkee speaking,” Etcheverry
said. “How would we know which transactions were legitimate and which
But Judge Neidorf disagreed. Since the bank is not under a criminal investigation, Neidorf allowed Feinstein's lawyers to go ahead and question bank officials about their handling of the Durkee affair.
Etcheverry said the bank would soon file a motion to dismiss Feinstein's lawsuit.
Durkee is due for a preliminary hearing in federal criminal court in Sacramento on Dec. 9. The lawsuit is due back in court for a status conference on Feb. 21.