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[whitespace] Story Tampering: Sheriff candidate Laurie Smith threatened legal action if we printed stuff she didn't like.


Thou Doth Protest Too Much

Just as Metro was about to go to press last week with a feature article about sheriff candidate Laurie Smith, a two-page missive came sputtering over the fax machine from Smith's lawyer, Doug Allen. The distinguished barrister warned the paper not to print a piece of embarrassing material about Smith which had surfaced while reporting the story (see below). If that name sounds familiar, it's because he's the same guy who puts bread on the table by representing the Correctional Peace Officers' Association and its litigious president, Richard Abbate. Before Metro ran an exposé on Abbate last year, Allen tried to block publication of budget information that made Abbate look bad. Note to Allen's future clients: lame legal threats only make reporters and editors think they're really onto something. ... This time around, Allen apparently feared Metro would print information from a 1992 memo suggesting that Smith may have interfered with an internal affairs investigation of her. The memo, written by secretary Pat Verzosa, contends that Smith barged into the IA office, rummaged through materials on an investigator's desk and walked out with tapes containing an interview with Deputy Gary Brady, who had accused Smith of gender discrimination. If she really removed the tapes, Smith violated department policy. Allen warned Metro that it had possession of documents that contained "false and defamatory" allegations. Actually, Smith doesn't deny listening to the tapes. But she claims memory loss as to exactly how she got the tapes and whether they were connected to an investigation of her. But Verzosa's report contradicts Smith's fuzzy memory, saying the assistant sheriff looked at the IA complaint log and "told me she [Smith] had heard Gary Brady had filed a complaint against her." OK, Doug--we just put more paper in the fax machine.


Take a Stand

Of the five candidates running for sheriff, Tom Sing is clearly the most progressive of the bunch. He's the only one to express support for creating a civilian review board. He also has the distinction of having testified on behalf of a confessed murderer. The assistant sheriff took the stand in uniform seven years ago in the racially charged case of Cang Truong, a 17-year-old Vietnamese kid who had pleaded guilty to the playground killing of a white student at Mt. Pleasant High School. Because Truong had already taken the blame for the death, the only issue left for the court to decide was whether to punish him as an adult or as a juvenile. Criminal defense lawyer Phil Pennypacker, an acquaintance of Sing's, called Sing as an unpaid expert witness to testify that the murder wasn't really gang-related--a key argument in limiting Truong's punishment. According to court documents, Truong was affiliated with a gang called the Eagles. But Sing told the court that because the murder was spurred by an incident wherein white students had hurled racial epithets, it wasn't a gang crime. "[W]hat qualifies as a gang is motivation," Sing testified, "and the gangs in the United States are motivated by money, by greed, by corruption, et cetera, whereas a gang like the Eagles isn't specifically motivated along those lines. They're more ethnic." Judge John T. Ball, not exactly a liberal, later sentenced Truong to seven years in the California Youth Authority instead of life in prison. ... Pennypacker recalls having subpoenaed Sing because few law enforcement officials will willingly testify for a defendant. But it doesn't seem that Sing required much arm-twisting. When doling out punishment, Sing says, the justice system needs to consider the age of the criminal. "If there's compelling information that I should take a stand, I'll take a stand," he declares. A detective handling the case for the SJPD, the lead agency in the investigation, also testified on cross-examination that he didn't think the murder was gang-related. By the way, Truong is due to finish serving his sentence later this year, just in time to cast a vote for Sing.


Accident Zone

Fully recovered from a nasty car accident a couple of months ago, District 1 council candidate Linda LeZotte started campaigning door-to-door last weekend. She had been injured while driving her Nissan Maxima past San Carlos and Lincoln on Feb. 10. LeZotte says she sideswiped another car which unexpectedly drove out into the intersection. LeZotte banged her head on the steering wheel and slammed her knees against the dashboard. "I thought I broke my sternum because I was having a hard time breathing," she recalls. An ambulance came and took her to the hospital strapped to a stretcher. Fortunately, her injuries weren't serious enough to keep her in the hospital. Unfortunately, she had a fundraiser scheduled for two days later with special guests like Jackie Speier. LeZotte did her best to play the happy host. "You gotta do what you gotta do," she explains.


Lucky Charms

So who did the White House beckon from San Jose's Irish community to attend its St. Patrick's Day party for Ireland prime minister Bertie Ahern? Well, it wasn't ex-Lord Mayor Tom McEnery, the co-founder of the San Jose-Dublin Sister City Committee. Though McEnery has been a White House guest in years past, this year Bill and Hillary didn't send him an invite. (Eye-watchers are well aware of the Macster's quasi-defection from the Democratic Party and his stint with the Perotistas.) Though McEnery didn't make the guest list, there was one Santa Clara County Irishman there: San Jose attorney Patrick McMahon, who supported Clinton in the last election. McMahon got to chat it up with the like of the Prez, the First Lady and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams while munching on boxty, kerry pies and strawberry shamrock pie. (Memo to Tom: Don't worry. Dick Lamm has got to throw a party sometime in the future.)


Crying Game

Laurie Smith may have the distinction of being the only woman in the sheriff's race, and Tom Sing may be the only Asian candidate, but only Sgt. Jose Salcido can say that he cried during a debate. During last week's forum held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, tough guy Salcido got all choked up when he started talking about his family in response to a softball question from a reporter. "I can believe it," a Salcido adviser tells Eye. "Jose can get real emotional about that stuff." Salcido, readers will recall, put down "father" as his occupation on his ballot statement. Let's just hope Daddy had plenty of tissues in hand when he saw Titanic.


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From the April 2-8, 1998 issue of Metro.

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