Thursday, June 13, 2013

Judge Accepts Plea Agreement, Legal Hassle Concluded

(Derek St. Pierre, center, and yours truly, right, at a December 2012 hearing in Superior Court. Credit: Rick Gerharter, BAR.)

It gives me great pleasure to announce that my legal hassle with an elected official, after he abused the power of his office as a member of the Board of Supervisors to put me through the law enforcement wringer over eight months and waste $26,000 in City dollars, has concluded.

Today, Judge Sam K. Feng accepted the plea agreement crafted by the District Attorney's office and my defense attorney Derek St Pierre, to whom I owe a big debt for his legal advocacy on my behalf.

Wearing my pink triangle Silent = Death button, I pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge 647(j) of the California penal code, accepted the terms of the three-year stay away order that allows to return to City Hall to directly petition my government with clear restrictions spelled out that bar me from using public rest rooms on the second floor of City Hall.

Soon, I will be attending police commission, ethics commission, human rights commission and the sunshine ordinance task force hearings on the fourth floor of City Hall, and blogging about the meetings.

As District 8 voters, Mike and I will be casting ballots for a worthy opponent to the elected official when his name next appears on the ballot. Here is the statement I read in court for the public record:

On October 26, 2012, I organized a photo-op at the Harvey Milk Bust at City Hall for a visiting gay Honduran leader facing government harassment at home. I needed to use the public men's room at City Hall and during the 26-seconds I was in there, I made a mistake and snapped a photo of an elected official at the sink. That mistake will never happen again.

The photo was posted to my blog and that began the misuse of power by the elected official that led to the events bringing us here today.

After that date and before I was charged, I had five public encounters with the elected official at gay community events, with dozens of witnesses and of course no threats or even hints of bad behavior were made on my part. 

 Yet, I found myself facing senior investigators from the Sheriff's Department that soon led the District Attorney charging and arresting me, with bail set at $25,000. Thus began eight months of clogging up the court, and the City spending an estimated $26,000 to investigate and prosecute me. 

Instead of misusing and putting me through a legal hassle, while costing taxpayers $26,000, this member of the Board of Supervisors could have taken me to task via online social media. He also could have taken advantage of the far less costly mediation services of our San Francisco Human Rights Commission, to settle this matter. 

Had I taken a photo of an ordinary gay citizen in a public men's room, and he complained to the legal authorities about it, I seriously doubt the complaint would have resulted in the investigation and prosecution I have faced. 

As I put this matter behind me, I look forward to again blogging about a full range of City Hall issues and voting for the elected official's opponent when he is up for reelection. I thank Judge Feng for settling this matter today.

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