Friday, January 22, 2016
SF City Corruption Charges Announced at Hall of Justice
There was an announcement late this morning from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office that a press conference was being held at the Hall of Justice this afternoon concerning imminent public corruption charges.
A small scrum of reporters, including Luke Thomas and Tim Redmond above, waited near the third floor elevators before being ushered down a long hallway to the DA's Library for a photo op, and to find out who was being charged with what amid such fanfare.
Former Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer, former HRC employee Zula Jones, and former City College Comissioner Keith Jackson were being charged with felony bribery, money laundering, grand theft and campaign finance fraud. The charges were part of an ongoing three-pronged investigation by (left to right) SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera, SF District Attorney George Gascon, and FBI Agent in Charge David Johnson.
How long the investigation has been going on or how much longer it will continue were questions that everyone refused to answer, citing federal and state protective orders. Gascon did mention that it was "more than months." A press release offered the following inspirational words: "For public law offices like the ones George and I lead, we have no more important duty than to punish betrayals of the public trust aggressively and to the law's fullest extent," said City Attorney Herrera. "To do anything less would diminish San Franciscans' faith in the integrity of their local government, and send a terrible message to would-be scofflaws in similar positions of trust." That last sentence is a bit of a giggle, since I have only met a handful of San Franciscans in 40-plus years who had faith in the integrity of their local government.
Jones and Mohajer and Jackson were all friends of Willie Brown, Jr., the former SF Mayor and continuing political fixer. During the federal corruption investigation that ended with the ensnarement of State Assemblyman Leland Yee and Shrimp Boy, among others, the lawyer Tony Serra managed to extract some very embarrassing transcripts from the FBI. In one of them, Zula Jones explains to an undercover agent how pay-to-play works in what is still Willie's City Hall as she prepares to break down an illegal contribution amount for Ed Lee's first mayoral race into separate bundles. Still, the three indictees are small minnows in the sea of institutional corruption that is old-fashioned San Francisco city government. If Mayor Ed Lee or any of his handlers were to be indicted, it might be easier to take the prosecutors' high-minded rhetoric about public corruption a little more seriously.
For the moment, what we have are a trio of fall guys/gals who were sloppy, publicly exposed, and since somebody needs to be the sacrificial lambs for an increasingly disgusted public, it might as well be them. Joshua Sabatini at the San Francisco Examiner has been the best reporter on this story. Click here for his front-page story yesterday which may have hastened today's particular press conference.