Oct. 25 2016 04:46 PM

Justice Comes for San Diego County’s Birther Judge

    Judge Gary Kreep
    Photo courtesy of San Diego Superior Court

    Pop quiz.

    Can you name someone who has run for public office who is a leader of the Birther movement; who has espoused extreme anti-immigrant sentiments; who has promoted Islamophobia; who stands accused of misogynistic behavior in the workplace; who has operated a complex network of organizations that ultimately benefited him personally; who really, really hates Hillary Clinton; and who has a single syllable surname that seems to sum up exactly who he is?

    You might say it's the Republican nominee for president. But the answer is Gary Kreep, the right-wing lawyer who was elected judge of the Superior Court of San Diego County four years ago.

    In many ways, Kreep was the proto-Trump. During the 2012 election, San Diego CityBeat was the first to ring the alarm on Kreep, who had long been a key figure in filing legal challenges around President Barack Obama's birth certificate and providing legal service to the nativist Minutemen. Few expected Kreep to beat his opponent, the well-regarded senior prosecutor Garland Peed, but with the help of his team of Roger Stone-like political dirty tricksters and shady slate mailers and robocalls, Kreep eked out a win. Suddenly, San Diego was faced with a judge that most in the legal community believed should never be let anywhere near the bench.

    Now—a whole presidential term later—justice is finally catching up with him. As first reported by The San Diego Union Tribune, the Commission on Judicial Performance has leveled 11 violations of the Code of Judicial Ethics against Kreep, each one comprising a variety of individual allegations related to his time on the campaign trail and his service on the bench. If the Commission finds against him, Kreep could face admonishment, censure or even removal from the bench.

    Several of the alleged offenses follow on investigative reporting conducted by San Diego CityBeat during, and in the wake of, his election:

    · CityBeat's investigation revealed a money-shuffling network of political committees that Kreep was involved in, including his own campaign, which were later cited for campaign finance violations by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The Commission has charged him with violating judicial canons by sending out mailers attacking President Obama, by inaccurately listing himself as chairman of the Beat Obama PAC on official forms and for financial inconsistencies in payments made to his friend James Lacy's company Landslide Communications.

    · CityBeat sat in on one of Kreep's early stints in the courtroom and documented the judge inappropriately questioning a defense attorney about her accent and whether she was a Mexican immigrant. He then joked about not deporting her, which was described by the Commission as one of many examples that showed "a lack of proper courtroom decorum or was otherwise improper."

    · CityBeatreported on how Kreep had been found by an arbitration committee to have overbilled a client and how Kreep had delayed repayment with a series of questionable checks that indicated he was still operating a private practice law firm, another violation of judicial canons.

    But those weren't by far the worst of the charges.

    Kreep is accused of referring to one female intern as "Bunhead" because of the way she wore her hair, another female intern as "Dimples," and an African American deputy city of attorney as "Star," a reference to conservative activist Star Parker, who he described as a "beautiful African American woman." He allegedly made regular comments on public defenders' appearances, such as "We got all sorts of very attractive, young PD's around here," and told one woman that she's "a pretty girl, you know you can smile." The Commission also charged Kreep with making denigrating remarks about an attorney's pregnancy and making inappropriate remarks to a defendant charged with prostitution such as, "Are you going to try to get a job at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada?"

    That wasn't all: he's alleged to have made inappropriate remarks to a Taiwanese-American attorney and Spanish defendants. He also is accused of using violent language such as a telling a female deputy city attorney he would "kick her in the butt" and telling the mother of a defendant to "slap [her son] up the head a few times."

    Does this causal misogyny, racism and violent rhetoric sound familiar? Well, there's yet another behavior that Trump and Kreep share in common: attacking reporters when presented with legitimate questions about how their behavior is reflected by the public record.

    Since the 2016 election has focused so much on emails, I have decided to release a series of correspondence between Kreep and myself during the campaign in an effort to provide context to the allegations he now faces. The Commission has also requested at least one email to determine whether Kreep had been honest about his involvement in political committees.

    In many cases, Kreep refused to answer direct questions, instead making remarks like "You give muckrakers a bad name" and "You REALLY must hate me, or you're REALLY being paid a lot to go after me by the downtown crowd. I hope that your bootlicking is getting you the crumbs from the table of the 'powers that be' that you are seeking, as your journalistic integrity, and accuracy, certainly is lacking."

    Those attacks were directly in response to reporting on his political activities as well as allegations made by his ex-wife during divorce proceedings that Kreep had been "physically and emotionally abusive," throwing bottles at her and punching holes in walls.

    Kreep flat-out denied the charges, much in the same way that Trump denied violent allegations by his ex-wife, Ivana Trump. Kreep also attacked his ex-wife as an addict and noted that she was "6-foot tall in stocking feet, and not exactly petite," as if a woman's physical appearance meant that she could not be a victim of domestic abuse.

    Perhaps most relevant to the judicial charges is Kreep's claim to me that he had resigned his role in several political committees upon filing for office—a requirement for all candidates for judge. It has since emerged that Kreep did not withdraw from those committees until more than a week later, leading to yet another potential violation of judicial ethics.

    Kreep must file his response to the charges with the Commission on Oct. 27. Maybe he'll finally provide answers. Maybe they'll show our characterizations were unfair. We'll let you be the judge.

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