NOTE BY NORSE: The use of prosecutorial terror to chill activism in Santa Cruz after the decline of the Occupy movement in the winter of 2011-2012 is particularly significant to homeless people. It was at the courthouse and adjacent San Lorenzo Park campground that homeless locals, community activists, and travelers established a Sanctuary Village of their own. It was makeshift, grubby, struggling, and plagued with all the problems homeless people usually face. It wasn’t Middle Class Pretty. However it provided a refuge for more than a hundred homeless folks at its height for two months (including toilet facilities–now scarce to non-existent in most of Santa Cruz). See “Occupy Santa Cruz Helps Those Fallen Through the Cracks” at https://www.indybay.org/
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2014 10:10 AM
One of D.A. Bob Lee’s principal demands in the Santa Cruz Eleven cases has been “restitution” to Wells Fargo Bank. Why are there “no records” of a $34,000 interest free loan to DA Bob Lee’s 2010 re-election campaign from Wells Fargo Bank? On Wednesday August 20th, Judge Steven Siegel held a hearing on a motion by attorney Alexis Briggs to uncover the records of Wells Fargo’s 2010 loan to Santa Cruz District Attorney Bob Lee. Lee has been relentless pursuing 11 activists at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a peaceful occupation of a 5 year-vacant Wells Fargo-leased bank building. 7 of the defendants, some of whom lost jobs, housing, and health because of this vendetta against the Occupy movement, had all charges dismissed after a grueling year of merry-go-round court appearances. The Final Four defendants still being hounded have been to court nearly 50 times, according to defendant Brent Adams.
Wednesday’s hearing in Judge Steven Siegel’s courtroom was a continuation of a hearing from the week before. Alexis Briggs, attorney for Cameron Laurendau of the Santa Cruz Eleven filed a motion on behalf of her client to recuse District Attorney Bob Lee from the case & have the State Attorney General take over the prosecution of the remaining four defendants.
At that hearing, a well-suited representative from Wells Fargo, Hani Ganji, appeared before the Judge to provide records, if any, of any financial relationship between the Bank & Bob Lee in the past 5 years.
In 2010, Bob Lee was running for re-election for his District Attorney for Santa Cruz County position. He submitted papers to the County elections board as required by law that he had taken out a loan from Wells Fargo Bank for $34,000. About six weeks later, he filed an addition affidavit claiming that $32,000 of the original $34,000 loan had been paid off. He also checked the box indicating that zero interest had been charged. This possible preferential treatment by the bank towards Lee prompted the motion.
DA Bob Lee was not in court, despite being the subject of the motion, and sent County Counsel, Mr. Sheinbaum, to court on his behalf, who explained that Lee “was ailing.”
The Hani Ganji told the Judge, “Wells Fargo has searched for any loans in the last five years and we didn’t find any records.”
Sheinbaum told Siegle that Lee had no records of the transaction, either, but that there was “a perfectly innocuous explanation” for the lack of records.
Siegle admitted he was “not clear how that works.” “Not only do we have no record of that loan. We have no records of any loan in the last five years.”
“It’s a mystery,” admitted Sheinbaum, “but there are several perfectly innocuous reasons for the lack of records.” When asked for even one such reason by Briggs & Defense Attorney Lisa McHaney, he did not offer a single response.
So did Lee submit fraudulent records to the County Elections department? Did Lee get a $34,000 interest-free loan from Wells Fargo and they have destroyed the records? Or even worse, did Lee get the loan & upon his victory, was gifted $32,000 8 months before he charged 11 local activists and whistle-blowers with felony charges and sought over $25,000 in “damages” from them for occupying an empty bank building, leased to Wells Fargo for three days and turning it into a community center.
Is Lee lying? Is Wells Fargo lying? Are they BOTH lying?
Upcoming, defense attorney, Brian Hackett has another hearing seeking to recuse DA Bob Lee for “misdemeanor shopping,” when Lee revealed to three defendants “There were $30,000 in damages! Come up with the money and we can talk” about reducing the felony charges to misdemeanors.”
Siegel set a continuance of the hearing for next Wednesday, Aug 27th and 9:00 AM in Department 6
(Full Disclosure: I am one of the Santa Cruz Eleven defendants. My charges were dropped in 2013 for lack of evidence)
MORE NOTES BY NORSE:
Alexis Briggs provides more details of the hearing in a interview at http://radiolibre.org/brb/
In 2012, D.A. Bob Lee was quite candid in stating it would be “a whole new ballgame” if the defendants paid off Wells Fargo: See “Impromptu Conversation Between DA Bob Lee and Two of the Santa Cruz Eleven” at http://www.indybay.org/