"Outstanding' trio get probation
Three men found guilty last month for sleeping outside Mayor Dick Murphy's Del Cerro home were praised by Superior Court Judge Richard Hanscom Tuesday before he handed down a lighter sentence than the one sought by a city attorney.
"Anyone who's around them for more than 15 minutes would see these are outstanding young men," the judge said of self-described human-rights defenders Erik Olson, 32; Kevin Nash, 40; and David Rodriguez-Acevedo, 19. "Some may say they deserve a reward," he added, "but [the court] isn't in the reward business."
The three were arrested in early February and charged with "targeted residential picketing," a misdemeanor that carries up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A month prior, they had launched a "non-violent sleep-out" with plans to spend 45 Sundays-from 8 p.m. until just before 6 a.m.-sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the mayor's house. It was their only recourse, Olson said, after attempts to go through official channels, such as the city's Human Relations Commission, failed. Their goal was to urge city leaders to be more attentive to human-rights issues such as housing affordability, lack of accessible healthcare and child poverty. Corrie Ort, a sociology professor at Miramar College, who spoke on the men's behalf, said they were told that "city government doesn't concern itself with these issues.
"The mayor should welcome citizens wanting to improve quality of life," she added.
Rev. Arthur Cribbs pointed out to the judge that the trio set up camp on only a portion of the sidewalk and never harassed or posed a threat to the mayor. They even managed to endear themselves to neighbors, who left flowers near the campsite.
"They met up with the Police Department [beforehand] to make sure they understood precisely the perimeters," Cribbs noted.
Hanscom said that in handing down a punishment, the larger issue was deterrence. "In our system, if they can go out there and do this, then the nastiest guy espousing the nastiest ideas can go out and do it, too." He gave the men two years probation and ordered them to pay $100 each to a victim-restitution fund.
Deputy City Attorney Leah Fields had asked the judge to additionally impose a sentence of 100 hours of community service with the pro-business Downtown San Diego Partnership-as opposed to a homeless shelter, where volunteering would be "consistent with their cause," she said. The request drew groans from the roughly 30 supporters there for the sentencing. Hanscom told the men they could perform community service with the organization of their choosing.
A tip that mayoral hopeful Steve Francis might be prematurely laying claim to prominent endorsers without their consent prompted CityBeat to take a closer look at an "Endorsement List" posted on the candidate's website.
The list includes five Republican state Assembly members, one Republican state senator, influential Republican moneymen like hotelier Doug Manchester and Mighty 1090 radio station owner John Lynch and some prominent developers.
Although many of the individuals included on the list are longtime political powerbrokers who often offer their names and financial support to candidates, the backing of Francis by such established interests doesn't seem to jibe with his two main campaign themes-that he's an "outsider" and is consequently unattached to "special interests." When CityBeat asked Francis about the paradox last week he insisted the list wasn't significant.
But shortly after CityBeat started asking questions, the link to the list disappeared from Francis' website while the list itself remained on the campaign's server, where it can still be accessed and continues to be updated. Last week, the names of several new Francis endorsers were added to the list including lobbyist Doug Sain, former Republican Party of San Diego County chairwoman Roxana Foxx and Macey "Corky" McMillin, founder and CEO of the development company that bears his name.
But confusion surrounded the exact status of some of Francis' other endorsers. According to a spokesperson for Assemblymember Ray Haynes, whose name appears on both the initial and updated versions of the list, Haynes has yet to back any candidate in the San Diego mayoral race. But a Francis campaign staffer who handles legislative affairs said Francis spoke to Haynes late last week and secured his endorsement. However, when asked why Haynes was placed on the list two weeks prior to that conversation, the staffer said she might have confused the timing. Just minutes after she hung up, Haynes called CityBeat from the floor of the Assembly to confirm that he did endorse Francis a few weeks ago and chalked his spokesperson's previous statement up to a miscommunication.
While the updated list may shed additional light on Francis' backers, the revised list also raises eyebrows because of who's missing. Julie Meier Wright, president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council (EDC), no longer appears on the list. Wright told CityBeat that she called the Francis campaign after she learned her name had been included on the original. She said that although Francis sits on the board of directors of the EDC, she hasn't and doesn't plan to endorse him or any other candidate.
But Steve Danon, a Francis campaign advisor, provided CityBeat with a copy of a campaign contribution for $300, which Wright initialed on a line granting Francis permission to use her name. Danon said Wright later asked that her name be taken off the list. He also said the endorsement link was removed from the campaign's website as part of an ongoing update.-Daniel Strumpf