Judge Allows New Trial for Shirakawa on Mail Fraud Charges

A judge ruled Friday that charges against George Shirakawa Jr. for his alleged involvement in a 2010 political mail fraud scandal should not be thrown out as part of a plea deal the disgraced former county supervisor agreed to earlier this year. The ruling was a victory for prosecutors, whose efforts to put Shirakawa behind bars had stalled in recent months.

“We think justice was done,” said prosecutor Karyn Sinunu-Towery. “It was fair.”

Also, in a surprise move before Friday’s hearing, Judge Philip Pennypacker, who presided over Shirakawa’s trial and plea deal related to five felonies and seven misdemeanors for perjury and a misuse of campaign funds, recused himself from further proceedings. Pennypacker complicated Friday’s hearing after he had engaged in ex-parte communications with one of Shirakawa’s attorneys, Jay Rorty.

Shirakawa is due back in court Wednesday, when a new judge will hear both cases. By that time, he may have a new attorney, as defense attorney Jay Rorty may not represent him further on political mail fraud charges.

After hearing from Rorty and prosecutor Kaci Lopez, of the District Attorney’s Office, Superior Court Judge Griffin Bonini ruled that Pennypacker’s testimony on how a plea deal was reached in the earlier case, which the court now calls “Shirakawa 1” to differentiate from the mail fraud case known as “Shirakawa 2,” would not be allowed. Bonini then ruled that a plea deal related to the first case would not protect Shirakawa from new charges.

““I’m going to deny the motion (to throw out the case),” Bonini said. “The entire defense argument is based on an inaccurate factual assumption.”

Rorty argued that the new charges against Shirakawa should be dropped, as he was “clearly a person of interest” to the DA’s office in 2010, when San Jose City Council candidate Magdalena Carrasco was labeled a communist and supporter of North Vietnam in political pieces targeting East San Jose’s Vietnamese community. A similarly false attack ad had been sent out in 2008 against Richard Hobbs, who Shirakawa defeated for the county supervisor seat.

Carrasco’s opponent in the 2010 race, Xavier Campos, was a close friend and political associate of Shirakawa’s who went on to win the primary against Carrasco by just 20 votes. In an interview with a DA investigator, Carrasco said she suspected Campos and Shirakawa were responsible for the mailers.

Rorty argued that the DA’s global plea deal for Shirakawa would have to include this “open case” since Shirakawa was a person of interest. Lopez countered that Shirakawa was not considered a suspect, as the DA never interviewed him and a DNA sample was never requested. It was not until Shirakawa was booked in the county jail this March and a cotton swab was taken inside of his cheek that a DNA match hit with a state cold case database.

In an explanation of his ruling, Bonini noted his opinion that Shirakawa was not the subject of the 2010 investigation and no activity was noted in the case file since that time.

It is still unclear how both cases will be handled going forward.

“We would prefer to have sentencing and then go on with the second case, but it will depend on who is the new judge and how it gets scheduled,” said Sinunu-Towery, who did not speak during Friday’s hearing in the chance she, like Shirakawa’s other attorney, John Williams, might be called to testify on the way the plea deal was reached.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

5 Comments

  1. I’m willing to accept that George, Reed and God knows how many other politicians, abused the privileges of office. What is so troubling to me is how 3 pit bulls mauled and tore up George JR. Almost as if they were afraid of his coming back to life. It was almost an orchestrated event. with Alvarado becoming the eventual winner of the supervisors prize, which never materialized. Now it appears some one else has to cover the tracks that would lead to the brains to seat Alvarado.
    If George JR. becomes the whipping boy for this administration, than save a few flogs for those that did likewise. We all know who they are. There was enough ink wasted by the publication, to write the Bible a thousand times over in long hand.
    Remember the disbanded Grand Jury, several years ago? Perhaps one day we will hear how that all came down.
    Perhaps the most we can hope for is that George JR. will repent and give us the inner working of the good ole boy politics of this Our Valley of Hearts Delight in great detail!
    I went this evening to photograph my Grand Son at James Lick. They played and beat YB. The energy I left with was listening to our National Anthem prior to the start of play. With my Ducks Unlimited hat over my heart and my sweet daughter at my side, My heart was pounding and my throat blocked with pride, I felt my pride exiting out my eyes. There is still much Americana in our Village. I have always expressed my feeling on San Jose Inside. People are afraid to express, for fear of retribution. There is no better feeling than being swallowed by the lion , and then lighting a bond fire, inside it’s belly.
    There is much waiting to be said about our way of life. George JR. is like the tip of the Iceburg that sunk the Titanic!
    Tomorrow the tide will be high at noon. It will be a perfect time to fish the cliffs of Davenport. I will have a fish report, Perhaps there will be a hint of what happened in Sal Si Puedes, and the Grand Jury.
    The Village Black Smith

  2. Good to see that they will go forward with the mail fraud case. Simply because you entered into a plea deal for certain crimes you’ve committed should not protect you from prosecution for other crimes you may have committed. It is important that the facts are brought in to the light about this case so the public can know who else participated in such deceitful actions.

  3. First Geo betrayed the trust of the residents of his community with his gluttonous pleasures, playing golf and eating like a pig on public money that was badly needed for the poor of his District. He tried to wiggle out of prison with his lame claim that he suffers from depression – He’s depressed because he got busted!

    Now we find out he committed another felony with the Campos campaign fraud, and Geo is making the Superior Court look foolish and inept. This will drag on as long as his lawyers keep cashing in – maybe they’ll find a pair of gloves that don’t fit.

  4. Its funny that they go after George with a vengeance , BUT Reed another PROVEN crook gets fined $1.00 what a disgrace. Any and all Politicians who lie , cheat and steal from the public should be Prosecuted