A few things for which I’m thankful

I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving 2012, in both my personal and professional lives. I’ll forgo the personal here, but share a few blessings I’ve had on the job this year:

The “pinch-me” bizarre campaign moments: Newt Gingrich promising to establish a U.S. moon base; Clint Eastwood berating an empty chair; Joe Biden chilling with the bikers; anyone at all taking Donald Trump seriously, ever, even for a nanosecond.

The stranger-than-fiction stories I covered: a U.S. Senate primary that featured, among many others, a surfing rabbi, a “birther” queen and an octogenarian mountain climber; the first one-on-one with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi after her shoplifting conviction; a maniacally misinformed wedding-chapel owner in Reno; and, just this week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors suffering the consequences for banning public nudity.

My continued employment: The news industry’s massive downsizing in recent years has pushed out many talented and valued colleagues and friends. I’m a very lucky man to still be doing what I love, and I’m thankful for it every day.

My bosses: Many thanks to editors Ken McLaughlin and Mike Frankel for all the work, from the fine-tuning to the big revamps, they’ve put into my stories this year; I’m a better reporter and writer for working with them.

Some people I’ve covered have endured an awful 2012 to varying degrees, from the Oikos University massacre’s victims and their loved ones to the Lockyer family. I hold them and others in my thoughts today, and wish them a happier, healthier, brighter year to come.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    I’m thankful for blogs which allow the informed, the uninformed, the severely disturbed and the truly stupid to state their opinions and thus amuse, sicken and on rare occasions enlighten others.

  • Erik Nelson

    Josh, you are one of the things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Seeing that you’re still there, doing a great job keeping your readers informed and entertained. I’m thankful to have known you and on another level, thankful that your survival gives me hope for journalism.

  • Josh Richman

    Erik – you’re too kind, and very much missed here. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Soraya.

  • GV Haste

    “The stranger-than-fiction stories I covered: the first one-on-one with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi after her shoplifting conviction;”—–

    Where, let us not forget, Mary Hayashi said on July 21st, in her first interview in 9 months, the following to Josh
    Hayashi said she had been distracted by a phone call when she left with the unpaid items. “Of course, I intended to pay for them,” she said.
    A claim that she first stated on January 9th, in her written statement, only three days after she plead guilty to shoplifting $2,450 worth of merchandise.
    A plea, to a crime, for which INTENT is one of the “elements”, according to California law. A point that was highlighted by SF District Attorney, George Gascon, more than once.

    So Mary Hayashi admits intent by making her plea, then both on January 9th, and again with Josh, and numerous other times, says she never intended to steal the merchandise.

    Voters rejected her lame attempts to brush away this obvious intentional crime.
    Further more, in 2014 if she tries to use her remaining war-chest of $770,000 to run for the state senate, we are going to break open the old files, and run them by the voters again and again, since Mary refuses to come clean.
    She imagines we will forget her 12 months of distortions and lies about her deliberate and planned shoplifting.

    Forget it Mary? NO, you will live it and relive it until you tell the truth. We still have the police report with its clear details laid out.

    So it comes as a shock when we read on November 18th,, 2012, the following from Josh Richmond
    But Hayashi has almost $367,000 banked — in a committee opened before her arrest — for a state Senate bid in 2014; she also has $411,000 left in her 2010 Assembly re-election account. Hayashi’s staff didn’t return calls and emails seeking a comment, but a Democratic operative who knows her, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she will run for the Senate.
    Whether Mary spends $250,000 as she did this time for Supervisor, or if she spends $1,000,000 in 2014 for senate, we won’t allow her to fool the voters by continued lying about her “intent” in her crime.

    Come clean Mary, or you’ll never shake this thing from the voter’s minds.
    As often is the case, the cover-up is worse than the original crime. Mary’s continued denials of intent are akin to a cover-up. Disrespectful of the voter’s intelligence.

  • Josh Richman

    @4, actually GV, Hayashi pleaded “no contest,” which means she neither admitted nor disputed the charge.

  • GV Haste

    “actually GV, Hayashi pleaded “no contest,” which means she neither admitted nor disputed the charge.”

    Yes, I know, and I also realize that ALL over the media, the term “convicted” has been used almost interchangeably. Apparently Mary’s staff called up some news sources and complained early on about just that.

    As I said, in California, to prove the charges, the prosecution must prove intent. Intent is one of the elements of the crime.
    As a legal defense site puts it, trying to attract clients, they include the following information.
    –The bottom line is that the intent to steal is always controlling in a California petty theft or shoplifting prosecution under Penal Code 488. If that intent is present, the courts will find a way to hold you accountable. Without that intent, there is NO theft.
    –If you didn’t have the intent to steal, you can’t be convicted of this crime — period! This means that if your California petty theft attorney can convince the prosecutor, judge, and/or jury that you simply “forgot to pay”, you must be acquitted.

    Mary had loads of money to defend herself. She had the very best attorney she could find. Her husband is a Superior Court judge. They knew the law.
    They fully knew that if the prosecution could not show “intent” beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mary would be found “not guilty” and completely cleared.

    Either being distracted on a cell phone, or being impaired by a brain tumor, would have been more than enough to completely exonerate Mary and leave her record spotless.
    A innocent person with her huge resources, and with so much to lose, would have leapt at the chance to fight the charges

    Instead she chose to not contest charges that were poison to her entire career.

    Not only that, but she the directly, and also through her attorney, chose to spin out rediculous stories and refusing to answer any reasonable questions directly.

    As you noted, in your July 21st interview she suddenly threw overboard her laughable “brain tumor” excuse, after 7 months of using it, blaming it all on her lawyer. Ignoring the fact, as you mentioned, that she, in her own January 9th statement, also included the brain tumor as one of the plausable explanations for her criminal behavior.

    Right there to your face in that interview, she continued the distortion, in some crazy attempt to fool just enough voters who don’t pay attention.
    Thankfully that attempt to fool them, failed.

    Even in the Bay Area NewsGroup endorsement interview, in October, on tape, when asked about her crime, she repeatedly refused to even discuss it.

    So we are left to her “not contesting” a crime in which the prosection MUST prove intent.

    Clearly they had, as Distrit Attorney Gascon stated, “ample evidence” to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, including the intention of Mary Hayashi.

    Instead Mary issued repeated claims that deny her intent and planning.

    From her own words
    “The simple fact is I unintentionally walked out of a store with items Ihad not paid for”
    “Of course, I intended to purchase what I had, but I didn’t”
    “I made this absentminded error”
    “My medical condition may have complicated the situation,”
    “Of course, I intended to pay for them”

    Interestingly, Mary fails to ever answer the vexing question of why she had in her possession that day, a extra Neiman Marcus shopping bag, the very bag which she used to conceal the stolen goods.
    She, at that point of concealment, had not made any prior purchases that day, nor was she returning any goods.
    So why would she bring a extra Neiman Marcus shopping bag from home?

    No wonder Mary never went to court or faced a prosection where she’d have to answer such basic questions. The case was a slam dunk.

    Now in a normal case, everyone would move on.
    But Mary chose to run for Supervisor and was rejected.
    However you now report she may be, according to people knowledgeable about such matters, planning to run for the State Senate in 2014.

    One wonders if in that campaign she’ll be willing to discuss her shoplifting plea.

    Perhaps by then she’ll cook up some explanation for the appearance of her “extra” Neiman Marcus shopping bag.

    Mary’s big problem in 2014 is that with the “top two” system, she needs to fool 50.01% of the voters instead of just the 33% or 36% she would have needed for the recent special election.
    She got less than 24% this time. She needs double that in November 2014.

    Unless she fully explains all the facts, she is going to face these same issues again. Next time her opponents may not be as reluctant to use the facts and confront her directly.

  • Josh Richman

    @6 – I’m not defending Hayashi’s conduct, and voters have and will continue to judge it for themselves. But legally speaking, a “no contest” plea is different from a “guilty” plea – it requires no admission of guilt, yet is treated like one and so leads to a criminal conviction. So: She WAS convicted. She DID NOT admit to guilt or intent.

  • Elwood

    Ah, the wonders of the blogosphere.

    A nice little piece by Josh about all the things he’s grateful for deteriorates into a discussion of the culpability of Mary Hayashi.

    The hubris of Hayashi boggles the mind.

    excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.

  • GV Haste

    Josh, I know you’re not defending Hayashi. Far from it. We appreciate your work.
    The public was most thankful for your interview after her 9 long months of silence.
    You’re interview brought out great points and contradictions between her version vs the facts.
    And clearly Mary did not admit “intent”.
    She has made that clear over and over in quotes.
    Indeed, that is her problem.

  • Elwood

    Hey Josh, you’ve made the big time now. You’re featured in the Flash Report!


  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Nolo contendere or No Contest does not preclude punishment but does rule out civil action against the defendant. Spiro Agnew, of dubious memory, pleaded so in 1973 before his resignation.