Getting San Jose Councilman Xavier Campos to agree to an interview is a difficult proposition. Unless you’re the New York Times or NBC Bay Area’s Damian Trujillo. The latter scored an on-air interview this week with the councilman, who invoked the Fifth Amendment in front of the grand jury last month.
In the interview, Campos says that he had nothing to do with a fraudulent political mailer that helped him defeat his opponent, Magdalena Carrasco, in the 2010 council race. He also said he took the Fifth because he doesn’t trust the District Attorney’s office.
“I’ve seen a number of elected officials, and the allies of elected officials, be prosecuted and then charges later dropped or dismissed, and their lives left in shambles,” Campos told NBC.
While it’s not clear exactly who he meant, Campos would likely be referring to former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who was indicted in in the NorCal trash scandal along with his budget director, Joe Guerra. A judge threw out the charges, citing a prosecutorial error and ruling that exchanging nonspecific promises of political support for contract favors failed to constitute political graft. It is worth noting that those indictments preceded current District Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office just last week successfully put pilfering former county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.—Campos’ close friend and former boss—in jail. The next trial for Shirakawa, who was indicted by the grand jury in connection with the mail fraud, begins next month.
The NBC interview, at least what was aired, didn’t delve into why Campos had the help of unpaid political consultants in 2010—Ed McGovern, Ryan Ford and Rolando Bonilla received $65,728 total from the 2010 campaign of the councilman’s sister, Assemblywoman Nora Campos—or question the use of Linda Delgado as his campaign treasurer. Delgado is the mother of one of Shirakawa’s children, and she held the same position during his supervisor campaigns, when he was using contributions to gamble and pay for lavish dinners and trips. Delgado also asserted her Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate herself by answering questions before the grand jury.
What could give the NBC story legs are comments made to Trujillo by legal analyst Steven Clark. After watching the interview, Clark said, “Because [Campos] doesn’t trust the process, that’s not a valid reason to assert the Fifth.” Clark added that Campos could be called back in front of the grand jury, but he might not be able to invoke the Fifth again. By publicly broaching the subject and declaring he had no role in the illegal activity, it would seem there is no reason Campos cannot testify.
Campos vowed in the interview that he will not talk about the matter anymore, except with constituents. We’ll see if that promise can be kept.