After San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman released statements on Monday saying they'd completed their investigations in a couple of matters involving controversy magnet Carl DeMaio, there was so much parsing of words. Let's run it all down:
Dumanis' office announced that it had concluded its review of evidence related to an alleged burglary and vandalism at congressional candidate DeMaio's campaign headquarters, as well as allegations of "sexual misconduct" made against DeMaio by Todd Bosnich, the DeMaio campaign's former political director. DeMaio has repeatedly referred to Bosnich as a "suspect" in the alleged office breakin, but he's the only one who has; the authorities never called Bosnich a suspect.
"After thorough investigations conducted by the San Diego Police Department on both cases," the statement read, "no criminal charges will be filed at this time due to insufficiency of evidence."
Numerous media subsequently reported that DeMaio had been "cleared," and several DeMaio antagonists—some of them lawyers—strenuously objected to the word, because it implies that De- Maio's been completely exonerated of wrongdoing, and what the DA said was that there simply wasn't evidence to charge DeMaio with the crime. We won't quibble too much with the word, as it surely seemed that Dumanis had wiped her hands of the matter.
More interesting to us is what crime was considered—"sexual misconduct"—and that this was reviewed by the DA's office, which prosecutes felonies, and not by the City Attorney's office, which prosecutes misdemeanors. What Bosnich described DeMaio allegedly doing—including masturbating in from of him unwantedly—sounds like misdemeanor sexual harassment (Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstadt did a great explainer on sexual harassment and sexual battery when former Mayor Bob Filner was embroiled in harassment allegations).
We can only assume that the Police Department sent the harassment claim to the DA's office because it considered it a potential felony. Typically, the DA will kick cases it thinks are more likely misdemeanors over to the City Attorney's office. So, it's likely that after finding no evidence of a felony, the DA's office also concluded there was no misdemeanor, either. Also, the DA's office won't tell us what "sexual misconduct" means, in a legal sense.
None of this can be analyzed without mentioning that Dumanis—a politically oriented district attorney if there ever was one—benefitted not long ago from a fundraiser held by DeMaio. The DA's office tackled that one in its statement: "The Office of the California Attorney General has confirmed the assessment by the District Attorney's Office that there is no legal conflict of interest restricting the DA's Office from reviewing either case."
Meanwhile, more parsing: Reporter Wendy Fry of NBC 7 was among those who asked the Police Department if Chief Zimmerman called DeMaio two months ago and told him that the harassment case was closed. This week, Fry says, a police spokesperson encouraged her to read the department's statement carefully. In response, on Twitter, Fry highlighted this line: "The highest level of confidentially was maintained during the entire investigative process, and will continue to be maintained, to protect the integrity of each investigation." Sounds like DeMaio was lying, but the department won't come right out and say it. We wish it would.
Surely, DeMaio is happy to see the word "cleared" all over the place, but he might not want to get too comfortable. Our lawyer friends say harassment is typically handled in civil court rather than criminal, and Bosnich is going to sue DeMaio. Possibly more problematic is Fry's report this week that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office are investigating Bosnich's assertions that the DeMaio campaign offered him $50,000 in hush money, that his personal email account was hacked and that he and his mother received threatening emails.
For his part, DeMaio is doing what he does best: framing a narrative to suit his needs. Just as he's been pushing, without evidence, the idea that he fired Bosnich for a plagiarism incident that embarrassed his campaign back in May, this week he's been claiming, again without evidence, that DeMaio's opponent, Scott Peters, is actively promoting the sexual-harassment scandal to reporters. In so doing, his narrative goes, Peters and his supporters are guilty of gay-baiting—by that logic, a gay man can never be accused of sexual harassment.
Oops, we've run out of space and haven't even discussed the story we broke this week about an outrageous, sexist email DeMaio sent back in January, fat-shaming a Peters staffer. Folks, guilty or not, Carl DeMaio is just the worst.
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