On January 22, five weeks before former Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. was charged with 12 criminal counts, Cindy Chavez met District Attorney Jeff Rosen for lunch at P.F. Chang’s in downtown San Jose. Chavez, who had supported Rosen’s Republican opponent, Dolores Carr, in 2010, immediately asked Rosen if he was running for re-election. It was an odd question, since there was no reason to believe the first-term DA wouldn’t want to keep his job and suggested a veiled threat by the de-facto leader of a political machine that had just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to field candidates against two City Council incumbents who’d crossed her. Then Chavez got down to business addressing the subject she’d come to discuss. Chavez let Rosen know that the DA’s office was perceived as being overly aggressive against minority politicians and that if his office prosecuted Shirakawa, it would not be viewed favorably on the East Side. “It wasn’t very subtle,” says a source familiar with the conversation. Not only did Chavez throw down the race card and lobby Rosen “not to do anything,” South Bay Labor Council’s new executive Ben Field also lunched with Rosen and echoed the message. County executive Jeff Smith has also acknowledged that he encouraged Rosen to hand the case off to the attorney general. In spite of the campaign to influence the course of the investigation, Rosen and veteran prosecutor Karyn Sinunu-Towery resisted the political pressure and successfully prosecuted Chavez’s political ally Shirakawa—they served four years together on the San Jose City Council. It stands as the county’s biggest political prosecution, both in terms of dollars diverted and number of felonies. (Councilman Al Garza was convicted in 1983 of receiving a $6,000 cash bribe and Terry Gregory pleaded guilty to 11 misdemeanors in 2005.) Chavez and Rosen split the lunch tab. Neither returned Fly’s calls seeking comments about the encounter.
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