District Attorney

2013: The Year in Review

The year 2013 will be remembered for its political turmoil, local and nationwide. A former county supervisor went to jail and the spotlight subsequently landed on his political buddy, a San Jose councilman. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to get married, and the president lied to the nation about domestic spying. San Jose Inside runs down the list of stories that caught our attention this year.


Karyn Sinunu-Towery Ends Career on Top

Very few people go out on their own terms, but there’s no doubt that Karyn Sinunu-Towery finished on top. The prosecutor wrapped up a 30-year career in the District Attorney’s office by successfully sending former county supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. to jail in her final case, and she handed off what seems to be a strong case involving Shirakawa and political mail fraud. Last week, colleagues honored her accomplishments with a cash bar fiesta at the De Anza Hotel, where junior and senior attorneys clinked cocktails as equals for minutes at a time.

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FPPC Expands Xavier Campos Investigation

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed Thursday that it has expanded its investigation into San Jose Councilman Xavier Campos’ 2010 campaign. Earlier this week, San Jose Inside reported that Campos and incarcerated former county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. created fictitious business filings with the county Recorder’s office under identical names as their campaigns. The unconventional finance practice could have allowed the two men to funnel campaign contributions into secret bank accounts.

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Xavier Campos, Shirakawa Filed Fictitious Business Accounts with Campaigns

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office seized documents in a Thanksgiving eve raid that implicate Xavier Campos’ campaign in funding the red-baiting political mailers that helped him win a seat on the San Jose City Council. Now, records obtained this week by Metro/San Jose Inside suggest that the District 5 councilmember engaged in a highly unconventional campaign finance practice—one used by the incarcerated former county supervisor—that would have allowed him to establish phony campaign bank accounts that could have gone undetected by agencies monitoring election spending.

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Xavier Campos’ Campaign Paid for Illegal Flyers, Warrant Reveals

A search of George Shirakawa Jr.‘s home the day before Thanksgiving turned up evidence that suggests Xavier Campos’ 2010 City Council campaign paid for materials to create a fraudulent political mailer that helped the San Jose city councilman get elected. The mailers portrayed Campos’ opponent, Magdalena Carrasco, as a communist to East San Jose’s Vietnamese voters, and Shirakawa’s DNA was found on a stamp affixed to one of the mailers. Campos ended up winning the primary election against Carrasco by 20 votes and later won the runoff.

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Recycling Petition Accused of Misleading Signers; Intends to Repeal EPS Ban

A lobbyist-funded ballot initiative will attempt to overturn San Jose’s ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) to-go containers at local restaurants. Sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, a petition that gathered 38,952 signatures was turned in to the City Clerk’s office Nov. 18. But before the county Registrar of Voters verifies if the necessary amount of signatures were gathered, critics have already lodged complaints with City Clerk Toni Taber that the petition misled signers.

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The Shirakawa Grand Jury Transcripts

George Shirakawa Jr. is currently spending his days in the Santa Rita Jail infirmary, while his county-provided attorney is attempting to seal grand jury transcripts that shed new information on his alleged role in a political mail fraud scandal. Since the documents remain public for the time being, San Jose Inside has decided to publish the grand jury transcripts in their entirety.

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Why NBC Bay Area’s Reporting on Xavier Campos is a Sham

As previously noted in this space, it’s nearly impossible to get Xavier Campos to agree to an interview. It helps, however, if you have a close relationship with the media-dodging councilman like NBC’s Damian Trujillo, who scored a rare on-camera chat last week. What did we learn from Trujillo’s interview and a follow-up report? Hardly anything. But we did learn plenty about Trujillo and NBC Bay Area.

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Did Xavier Campos Relinquish His Ability to Take the Fifth?

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 Thursday with the councilman, who invoked the Fifth Amendment in front of the grand jury last month. In his interview, Campos claims that he had nothing to do with a fraudulent political mailer that helped his 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. But, according to NBC’s legal expert, Campos might have said too much, and he could be recalled in front of the grand jury.

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Shirakawa Sentenced to One Year in County Jail

Disgraced former county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. will spend the next year in jail for his pilfering of campaign funds. Judge Daniel T. Nishigaya on Friday sentenced Shirakawa, who pleaded guilty this spring to five felonies and seven misdemeanors, to a year behind bars, minus one day served. Following the ruling, he was immediately escorted out of court and taken into custody. A source within the county Sheriff’s Office tells San Jose Inside that Shirakawa will spend his time behind bars in Alameda County. He will receive probation for three years following his release.

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County Supervisors Uphold Existing Civil Detainer Policy

Just when a debate over Santa Clara County’s civil detainer policy was getting stale, straight-laced Supervisor Joe Simitian delivered a bombshell by admitting he was arrested as a kid. The former state senator declined to share any more details except to say that he was locked up for “47-and-a-half hours” in Juvenile Hall on suspicion of some crime, cleared and then released. A details man, Simitian may be the only person to ever make the distinction between being in jail for 47-and-a-half hours and 48. “I’m going to ask you about that later,” joked fellow Supervisor Cindy Chavez. Maybe it was an attempt to relate, but Simitian’s youthful brush with the law hardly compares to the plight of undocumented immigrants who face deportation if charged with a crime.

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