It’s refreshing to know that San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew can gather so many supporters to protest his “unfair’’ treatment by The City’s legal officials. But I still don’t think it’s going to be a winning strategy in his case to try to tell a judge that home is where the heart is.
The exhibition staged by his friends and allies outside the Hall of Justice on Monday showed once again that Jew knows a thing or two about San Francisco politics. If only he were as familiar with some of his neighbors, he might be in a different place today.
Instead, he finds himself bobbing and weaving between civil and criminal charges — he pleaded not guilty Monday morning — facing possible removal from office and waiting for the big bomb to go off when federal investigators finally reveal their intentions concerning his alleged pay-to-play scheme involving some local business permits. A friendly note to his ardent fans — you may not want to be standing too close when that happens.
Yet let me give credit where credit is due — Jew and his ever-increasing team of attorneys are a determined bunch. One of his lawyers, Bill Fazio, has started questioning whether his client was being singled out on the residency issue, citing former District Attorney Terence Hallinan as someone who might have been spending an undue amount of time away from his San Francisco abode while in office. But Fazio, who lost to Hallinan twice in races for the DA’s job, should know that there’s probably never been a case where aprosecutor filed charges against himself.
There’s no question that the more desperate Jew becomes, the more entertainment the case provides. He’s played the race card, the political bias card, the media-bashing card, the “I stay out late’’ card and the “I like to shower among the plants at my flower shop’’ card. At the rate he’s going, his lawyers are soon going to ask permission to reshuffle the deck.
The only problem is that none of his cards looks too good and people are lined up to call his bluff. And you would, too, if you were sitting on a mountain of evidence that shows beyond any reasonable doubt that Jew never lived in his Sunset district home at the time he was running for supervisor — and, perhaps worse, didn’t even bother to try to make it look like he did then or since he’s been in office.
But don’t believe me; listen to the 36 neighbors interviewed by investigators — eight of whom are Asian-American — who say the house on 28th Avenue was completely vacant. Or look at the records that show that the house had no garbage collection service between June 2003 and May 2007, or that he had no water service account for six months and that the water usage was one-fifth of the average use for a single individual.
Or consider that Jew received no first-class mail at the house, and had no telephone, cable or satellite service. And I wouldn’t personally want to get the Internal Revenue Service’s attention, but Jew’s tax returns claim a Waverly Place address in Chinatown as his home address. And isn’t it a bit curious that he has records for all those services at his property in Burlingame? It might be more compelling if his wife filed a declaration saying they lived in San Francisco, but she should know as well as anyone the potential danger of making false statements and filing false documents.
I may not be a lawyer, but I still think it’s a risky strategy to play the “everybody is out to get me’’ defense,when nobody knows who you are — for the simple reason that they’ve never seen you. I don’t think his neighbors would be shocked at this point if he adopted the “Casper the Friendly Ghost’’ defense and claimed he was just haunting the house on 28th Avenue.
But it appears that a lot of sign carriers and letter writers don’t seem to care about the facts in this case, since they’re more than eager to maintain that Jew is getting a raw deal because, well, just because. The race card that his lawyers trotted out recently, suggesting that investigators only talked to Caucasian neighbors, didn’t turn out to have any merit — but it did point out that Jew apparently doesn’t know who his neighbors are.
In terms of legal maneuvering, I’d put that right up there with Jew’s turning himself in after criminal charges were filed last month — to the police station in Burlingame.
Give him this, however: He really knows how to rally the troops. If he’s really shrewd, maybe he can convince his “neighbors’’ to help him throw a block party.
Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at email@example.com or call him at (415) 359-2663.