Update at 11:51 a.m. PDT Oct. 19: San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera indeed plans to sue “at the earliest opportunity,” according to the Fog City Journal. Neither of the print dailies have anything on their Web sites about it yet, but local newswire Bay City News probably has it, so you news junkies can expect the basics to appear via BCN on various sites within a couple of hours.
Also, other sources report that Stuart Hanlon now represents Ed Jew, and Jew’s trial on charges of fraud and perjury is set to
start [Correx: get a new start date] Nov. 5.
New lawyers, new hearings and a potential fourth front for his legal troubles: It all adds up to a big day today for suspended San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew.
A hearing is scheduled this morning for Jew to name a new lawyer in his criminal trial on charges that he lied about living in the city’s District 4 while running for office and representing the district on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is alleged to have lived in the San Mateo County town of Burlingame instead. Earlier this month, lawyer Bill Fazio asked to be removed from Jew’s case because of “irreconcilable differences” (see earlier post, “Ed Jew lawyer bails”). In the meantime, Steven Gruel has continued to represent Jew in defense against felony charges filed by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. Both San Francisco daily newspapers report today that Stuart Hanlon will take over the case for Jew.
At 1:30 this afternoon, the San Francisco Ethics Commission will meet for a preliminary hearing on city administrative accusations of official misconduct also related to Jew’s residency. These are the charges that are directly related to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to suspend the supervisor and name Carmen Chu to fill Jew’s post on the board.
Yesterday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown granted permission for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera to pursue civil court action against Jew, also on charges that he lied about where he lived.
Brown’s decision doesn’t mean that the state has determined Jew did something wrong, but instead is just a statement that his office thinks there’s enough of a question that Herrera should be allowed to present evidence against Jew to a Superior Court judge. Technically, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Herrera will follow through on filing a civil suit, but I suspect he will. Much of the evidence Herrera would present has been located already, and it doesn’t hurt that the independently elected city attorney can mark down even a loss as bankable cred as a known fighter of rotten government.
So that’s three fronts on the question of whether Jew lied about living on 28th Avenue in San Francisco’s Sunset District neighborhood: one criminal facet brought by the district attorney, one administrative facet from the mayor and now, potentially, one civil facet brought by the city attorney.
But that’s not the only trouble Jew faces. In a fourth front of legal trouble, he still stands accused of federal mail-fraud charges. The feds say Jew demanded money from local business owners in exchange for helping them obtain city permits to operate.
In spite of this mountain of lawyering, though, it’s fair to keep in mind that Jew hasn’t been found guilty of anything. The results of a sniff test are troubling and Jew’s somewhat sophomoric understanding of how the game of politics is pursued is more apparent than ever, but all the accusations remain just words on paper so far.
Ed Jew and the ‘show trial of the century’
Arthur Bruzzone had a fascinating interview with Steven Gruel recently on Bruzzone’s “SF Unscripted” television show, but try as he might he couldn’t get Gruel to call Jew’s ouster a conspiracy.
Gruel, who’s been defending Jew, did suggest that a concerted effort, with actors from the federal government to local apparatchiks, was working to remove the suspended supervisor from office. Bruzzone implied that it was Jew’s political positions that provided the motivation for this supposed un-conspiracy, and Gruel didn’t jump to disillusion the host from any view that this is correct.
The most relevant part of the interview, though, was something Gruel brought up. I’ve previously noted Gruel’s observation that a charging document isn’t evidence and it certainly isn’t proof. Clearly, Gruel remains correct as far as criminal prosecution goes. But his point in the Bruzzone interview — he’s made it previously as well — was that Newsom’s decision to suspend Jew was premature.
Without getting into the matter of whether Jew might be guilty of anything or not, Gruel presents an important and interesting question. That is, if Jew is found guilty of any significant crime or official misconduct, then obviously the jig is up for Jew and he’s out of office. But if Jew is removed or suspended from office and then is acquitted of wrongdoing, what then? Does that put Jew in a position to take legal action to regain his seat — and, presumably, exact some sort of penalty on the city? Gruel thinks that it does, and perhaps he’s right. It certainly seems likely he would sue.
However, Gruel knows that the criminal process isn’t the only one in motion now and it’s curious that he didn’t address the matter of the quasi-judicial process that the city already has started. It’s separate from the criminal process and separate from anything the city attorney now has clearance to bring. However, Gruel has said the legal charges leave Jew essentially defenseless when it comes to the other proceedings against him, since anything Jew says there could be used against him in a court trial.
It seems pretty obvious that if the courts and the city find that Jew didn’t do anything wrong, the odds are pretty good that Jew would want to sue. But what happens if Jew isn’t convicted of anything in court, but the Ethics Commission and the Board of Supervisors do find against him in the city’s administrative procedure? It’s been a long time since the city has carried out the process of removing an official, and right now there’s a lot that isn’t clear about how it’s done. Today’s Ethics Commission hearing might clear up some of that and set boundaries and ground rules. But it’s conceivable that Jew could walk away from his criminal prosecutions but still get a thumbs-down from the city’s process.
Bruzzone closed his interview with Gruel by saying, “The show trial of the century is about to begin.” Hyperbole that may be, but there’s no doubt that Jew’s administrative hearings, and actual trials on federal mail-fraud charges and local charges of perjury are going to throw a much brighter, more public and perhaps more cruel light on what the Ed Jew story really is all about.