SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The candidate who benefited from a fake 2010 campaign mailer allegedly sent by former Supervisor George Shirakawa said Wednesday the news about his ex-boss was “hurtful” and those to blame “deserve to be brought to justice.”
San Jose City Councilman Xavier Campos, who defeated opponent Magdalena Carrasco in the race for council District 5 in November 2010, called the mailer “an enormous distraction” during that campaign but stopped short of saying if he knew Shirakawa was behind it.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Wednesday his office filed a felony false impersonation charge against Shirakawa after a test by a state Department of Justice lab matched DNA on a postage stamp on one of the fliers to Shirakawa.
The fliers, sent out in May 2010, claimed to be from Carrasco but were intended to discredit her by placing her photo next to an image of a North Vietnamese Communist flag considered offensive to many South Vietnamese immigrants in San Jose, Rosen said.
“If these allegations are indeed true, it is both deeply disappointing and extremely hurtful, not just to me but also to the entire East San Josi community that had to endure this enormous distraction during the 2010 City Council race,” Campos said.
“Those responsible deserve to be brought to justice,” he said.
Shirakawa was expected to surrender Wednesday at the Santa Clara County Main Jail to be booked on the charge and released on his own recognizance, Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu-Towery said.
He will be arraigned on the charge in Superior Count in San Jose at 1:30 p.m. Friday—the same time he is to be sentenced on 12 criminal charges to which he pleaded guilty on March 1, the day he resigned from the board of supervisors.
Shirakawa, 51, was charged Feb. 28 with four felony counts of perjury, felony misuse of public funds and seven misdemeanors for filing inaccurate campaign and government finance reports between 2008 and 2012.
Rosen said the district attorney’s office wants Shirakawa to serve one year in county jail for that case and be punished separately on the campaign mailer charge, which could get him 16 months or more in jail.
Campos volunteered for Shirakawa’s successful campaign in 2008, was Shirakawa’s policy aide while Shirakawa was a supervisor and received financial help from Shirakawa during the 2010 council campaign, Rosen said.
Campos that year was running to replace his sister, Nora Campos, in the District 5 seat on the City Council.
Nora Campos, who criticized Carrasco while campaigning for her brother in 2010, is now Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore. She could not be reached for comment today.
The Fair Political Practices Commission is currently auditing Councilman Campos’ campaign statements from 2009 through 2010, the commission’s Chief of Enforcement Gary Winuk said from Sacramento.
The commission opted to audit Campos’ reports to check for compliance after learning that he had used the same campaign treasurer as Shirakawa, Winuk said.
San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen said that many Vietnamese Americans who risked their lives fleeing Communist Vietnam see the Communist flag as a symbol of oppression and disrespect for human dignity.
“I’m very convinced that it damaged her campaign” among Vietnamese immigrants, Nguyen said. “When you want to damage someone politically, all you have to do is attach a pro-communist label.”
In the 2010 primary election a few weeks after the flyers were mailed, Carrasco fell short of the 50 percent majority she needed for an outright victory by just 20 votes, according to district attorney’s Investigator Michael Brown.
In the subsequent runoff election, she lost to Xavier Campos by fewer than 400 votes, Brown said.
In a document filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court Wednesday morning seeking a warrant for Shirakawa’s arrest, district attorney’s Investigator Michael Brown stated that Carrasco said “she had no knowledge of the flier until a citizen telephoned her after receiving it in the mail.”
“The caller, who was Vietnamese, politely explained how ‘very, very bad’ this flier was to the Vietnamese community,” Brown said in the document.
The district attorney’s office conducted an investigation into who was responsible for the mailer in 2010 but was unable to come to a conclusion until the DNA on the stamp was linked to Shirakawa, Rosen said.
“The filing of this charge solves the three-year mystery,” Rosen said at a news conference Wednesday morning at the district attorney’s office in San Jose.
When asked by reporters whether the district attorney’s office is looking into whether Campos was involved with the fraudulent mailers, Rosen responded, “The investigation into this matter is open.”
He said he is hoping the public can provide additional information about who may have financed the phony Carrasco mailer.
District 1 City Councilman Pete Constant said “there’s a lot of surprise and shock and dismay” among city officials about Shirakawa’s alleged involvement in the campaign mailers, and that the mailers “clearly had an impact on the election.”
Constant, who described Shirakawa as “an unethical and immoral politician,” said that given Campos’ close relationship with Shirakawa, Campos “has an obligation to let the people of San Jose know what he knew and what he suspected.”
Councilman Sam Liccardo said that others aside from Shirakawa had to be involved in organizing the false mailer’s production and distribution.
“I would suspect this entire idea did not emerge solely from George Shirakawa’s brain,” Liccardo said. “The other people in an organization are not the ones licking the stamps.”
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