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What Happened (at the DA’s Office)

Some say that former White House spokesman Scott McClellan is a calculating opportunist, a kiss-and-teller, out to sell books and look good in the eyes of history. Former San Francisco District Attorney spokesman FRED GARDNER says McClellan seems as poorly suited to run the White House Press Office as Gonzo was to run the Justice Department, or Brownie to run FEMA, or Preppy to run the country. John Stewart had to explain to McLellan in simple terms, several times, that the pervasive “permanent campaign culture” that he’s now denouncing and the “intentional deception” that he says the White House didn’t engage in are the same thing. Scotty eventually signaled partial understanding with a slight nod and an embarrassed smirk.

I intend to get a copy of “What Happened” as soon as it becomes available from Edward O. Hamilton for $4.95. Put it down to professional curiosity. How could the head of the press office not have known what Cheney and Rove were up to?

The culture of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office was such that if the chief assistant and the head of the criminal division –“the Number Two” and “the Number Three,” to use the native patois– had staged a dirty trick on the magnitude of outing Valerie Plame, I would have gotten wind of it.

Politically attuned lawyers are always gossiping, highly sensitive to who’s rising and who’s falling and who’s trying to achieve what within the office, and by what means. I doubt the White House differs from the DA’s office in that regard. Hard to believe there weren’t some alert aides, secretaries, speechwriters, even interns who knew that Libby, Rove and Eliot Abrams were badmouthing Joe Wilson and his wife. McClellan must not have had good sources within the office.

My boss at SFDA was Terence Tyrone “Kayo” Hallinan. I had met him in the late 1960s, when I was covering the Presidio mutiny case for Liberation News Service (a syndicate providing copy to the “underground press”) and Terence was representing 17 of the 27 GIs who’d held a nonviolent sit-down to protest conditions at the stockade (the alleged mutiny).  The climactic court martial was moved to Fort Ord, ostensibly for security reasons, and Terence and I spent many an hour driving from San Francisco to the base near Monterey. We became friends and stayed in touch over the years.

Before becoming DA in ’96, Terence had been a San Francisco supervisor for two terms, and before that he’d been a criminal defense lawyer, following in the footsteps of his father, Vincent Hallinan, who advised him “District attorney -that’s the job to get.” The elder Hallinan was a legendary radical lawyer who had represented ILWU leader Harry Bridges (and did time for contempt), took the Catholic church to court to prove the reality of God, and ran for President in 1952 on the Progressive Party ticket (while doing time for tax evasion). Terence’s mother had made a fortune in Marin County real estate. The six Hallinan boys had a princely but demanding upbringing.

In 1999, when Terence asked me to be SFDA’s Public Information Officer, I was working as an editor at UC San Francisco and covering the medical marijuana story as a free-lancer. He had just won re-election by a very narrow margin, and the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayor Willie Brown and the Committee on Jobs were looking for an opportunity to have him recalled. I had a windowless office across the hall from the Number Three (Paul Cummins at the time). The walls were a grim Hall-of-Justice gray under purple fluorescent light. I put up a few political New Yorker covers drawn by Art Spiegelman and brought in my own iMac and an incandescent desk lamp. I handled inquiries from the public and the media, and returned every phone call (often to the surprise of the citizen caller). It was known among the assistant DAs that I was Terence’s old friend, could always get through to him, and felt free to speak my mind to him (not that I’d always get heeded). So lawyers were frequently in my office reporting the status of their cases, disposition offers, ideas, requests, etc., knowing that I would pass on to Terence whatever I gleaned. I wrote a daily memo to him, based on what came over the transom. Here are some slightly cleaned-up examples of what happened at the DA’s office

• Judith Garvey and Inspector Mike Mahoney have reviewed the videotape, provided by the SF Giants, of the August 4 episode in which a rubber boat with a 10-horsepower motor driven by a man named Jackson (Alameda resident) cut off a kayak to retrieve a Barry Bonds home-run ball. Mahoney thinks there was a violation of the maritime speed limit and possible reckless driving. (Jackson apparently cut off another motor boat; he didn’t “ram” the kayak, as initially reported by victim Cindy Glatz, but he netted the ball her kid was reaching for, and his momentum carried his boat over her prow.) Judith intends to delay the charging decision until the Port Commission meets Tuesday afternoon (4 p.m., Pier 1) to discuss the increasing traffic/tension in McCovey Cove, and the possibility of cordoning it off to motor boats.

• Went to Graffiti Abatement meeting at Northern Station. Cops have familiar complaint: “We catch them, DA won’t charge them…”

• Double homicide this a.m., according to PVC. Mother and father bludgeoned, stabbed to death. Hispanic family in Bayview. Son, who was bloody on the scene, has confessed. Claims he hired three Black men who hung out on a nearby streetcorner to do the deed. Sister lived in downstairs flat, claims she saw Black man fleeing as she came up back stairs in response to mom’s cry for help. Suspect also says wife had nagged him for four months to get parents out of the apartment so that they could move in. Cops at 7:30 a.m. tell him to phone her with the news (to confirm her role in a conspiracy to commit murder). He says “She’ll just yell at me for waking her.” And sure enough, that’s exactly what she does: “They’re dead? Well, they’ll still be dead in a couple of hours. Why you have to wake me and tell me?”

• Sam Totah met this morning with two SF State PD officers. They want to remove the political pressure from their shoulders. The SF State police dept has forwarded a number of police reports for SFDA to review. They have requested that the district attorney file complaints against two individuals for 594 destruction of property, disturbing the peace and hate crimes. The 594 resulted from a demo in which someone pulled an Israeli flag from a pole and stomped on it. But the flag wasn’t torn or smudged. SFDA will review the information contained in the complaints and make a charging decision, i.e., try to make a molehill out of this mountain created by the media.

• Jim Zamora, Examiner, working on a PCO [parking control officer] story. There’s an assault-on-a-PCO case set for prelim May 26. Gracie charged with two felony counts –245a1 assault with intent to commit GBI [great bodily injury] and 243c1 assault on a public official while doing their job. Can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony (substantial injury). Victim PCO Mohammed Latif says Gracie punched him three times in head and elbowed him while Latif was sitting in a Geo metro. Defense attorney is Omar Figueroa (Serra associate). Steve Johnson, ex-cop now DPT [Dept of Traffic] enforcement officer, says uniformed PCOs will attend. He also says hello to you. Johnson agrees PCOs would be safer if they had the leeway to tear up tickets when citizen arrives in time. Zamora says that’s how Berkeley has been doing it for a year or so, and will check their results.

• Our friend J.D. of the Rainbow Grocery asking if the driver had been charged. She witnessed the death of Leo Garcia, feels sympathy for the driver of the truck that crushed his car. Driver had made delivery to Rainbow. “A nice clean-cut young guy, African-American, friendly and competent.”  Not impaired by alcohol or drugs she thought and police tests confirmed. J.D. says the intersection is inherently dangerous. Painted lines that divides the lanes are worn out. “He was coming west on 14th St. and made a right on Folsom. Mr. Garcia was coming the opposite way. It’s a horrible traffic corner. He probably swung out too wide, but you have to to make that turn.”

• As you were walking out of Kimberly (Guilfoyle)’s office Friday afternoon, Lt. Hunter was ridiculing a prospective witness named Moser for being nervous about the Aryan brotherhood. Sgt. Morse seems dead serious about the investigation but Hunter seems to see it as a photo op. I asked him if the people who lived in the other apartments on the 6th floor had been interviewed. He said the investigators had “left a flier for them.”

That is an unbelievably superficial effort. It’s much easier to ignore a flier than an officer at your door saying ‘I see you’re home this afternoon, did you happen to be at home the afternoon Diane Whipple was killed by that dog?… I know how hard it is to get involved in situations like this, but… You may think that what you heard or saw was insignificant, but to those of use who are trying to figure out exactly what happened, every little detail would be useful…’ That’s how detectives used to conduct an investigation. I’m not saying they’d find another witness, but a flier can’t cajole or apply pressure as well as a proficient investigator… I was listening to Napoleon Hendricks complain to [Assistant DA Al] Giannini how knocking on doors had given way to putting fliers in mailboxes [as SFPD procedure]. Which is so much easier.

FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

 

 

 

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Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

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