From the very inception of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' mayoral campaign, the Republican candidate has bragged about garnering endorsements from both sides of the political aisle. But Dumanis has also picked up support from both sides of the courtroom, and we' re not just talking about her questionable endorsement from San Diego County Public Defender Henry Coker.
According to campaign-finance disclosures, Dumanis also cashed a campaign check from a Lasik surgeon she prosecuted a little more than three years ago on domestic-violence and prescription-drug charges.
In March, Dr. Manoj Motwani, who runs the Motwani Lasik Institute, donated $150 to Dumanis' candidacy. According news reports from the time, Motwani was accused of beating his girlfriend while driving on Interstate 5 in October 2007 and was arrested in April 2008 by the California Highway Patrol. He was also accused of receiving prescriptions under false pretenses.
Motwani proclaimed his innocence, even going so far as to employ a PR firm to promote his side of the story. In the interest of full disclosure: Motwani hired J.Walcher Communications, whose principal is in a relationship with CityBeat editor David Rolland. Walcher filed a complaint against Motwani in small-claims court over unpaid bills, but the firm was not the source of this story.
Motwani pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in January 2009, as well as an unrelated drunk-driving charge. He was sentenced to three years or probation and a year-long domestic-violence course and ordered to donate $8,000 to a battered-women shelter.
We spoke with Motwani's assistant, who said she would pass on a message and forward our email to Motwani. He has not responded. Dumanis' campaign and office has not replied to questions about how she balances her tough-on-crime credentials against her acceptance of support from someone she prosecuted.
CityBeat identified several other donors whose names match defendants in criminal cases, but Dumanis did not confirm whether these were, in fact, the same individuals.
Ida Bleich, a pharmacist who donated $200 to Dumanis in October, also came into contact with the District Attorney's office when she was suspected of leaving threatening phone messages on a coworker's voice mail. The case was dismissed early on when a judge found the messages sounded nothing like Bleich and there was no phone records of making the call. The District Attorney's office wrote in a memo that it did not intend to refile charges due to weakness of the evidence.