Santa Clara City Council Member Anthony Becker faces charges of perjury and “violation of duty.” When asked in April about the charges, District Attorney Jeff Rosen told the media that when the criminal grand jury transcript was released, the public would have a better idea of why the office pursued the charges.
The more than 850-page document was released on May 19. While it does lay out a case against Becker, it also leads to several new questions. Such as, why was Becker the only one charged? And why were only certain leaks investigated at such length?
It should be noted that Becker pleaded “not guilty” to the charges on May 3. In a previous article, The Weekly examined Deputy District Attorney Jason Malinsky’s case against Becker. This article looks specifically at the other potential violations revealed during testimony.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s Forwarded Emails
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor was initially interviewed during the investigation into the leak. But what Gillmor said in its entirety may forever remain a mystery.
That’s because while Becker’s entire testimony was submitted into evidence in the court proceedings, only a summary of Gillmor’s testimony was released to the public. That summary was presented through the words of Malinsky, not Gillmor.
“Mayor Gillmor testified before the civil grand jury that she sends her work emails to her personal email address, quote, all the time, unquote. Quote, especially if she needs to print something. Unquote,” stated Malinsky to the criminal grand jury. “She explained that she does this because she does not print from her City devices at home or in her business office. She called herself, quote, old school, closed quote, and she said she likes hard copy documents to review.”
“Mayor Gillmor testified that when she received the report from Interim City Attorney Steve Ngo, she emailed the report to her personal email and printed it at her business office in Santa Clara and immediately went through the report in detail,” continued Malinsky.
It is worth noting that prior to the release of the criminal grand jury documents, The Weekly submitted a public records request to the City of Santa Clara for “Email communications to and from Mayor Gillmor’s emails from her city account to her personal email account(s) from Oct. 3, 2022 through Oct. 12, 2022.”
The response The Weekly received from the City included several work related items, but no proof that Gillmor emailed the civil grand jury document to herself as she stated in her grand jury testimony. The City stated it withheld certain documents pursuant to two government codes which relate to personal or medical files and one government code related to attorney-client privilege.
It is unclear whether emailing a now public document to oneself falls under any of these three categories.
In Malinsky’s words, Gillmor testified that she did not leak the report. In fact, she testified to that regard twice.
“She came up with a plan for how city council should respond and actions they should take regarding the report. Mayor Gillmor denied leaking the grand jury report,” said Malinsky. “Gillmor was also interviewed in a follow-up interview at the district attorney’s office. In that interview, she denied leaking the grand jury report.”
Who Leaked the Document to the San Francisco Chronicle?
In the grand jury transcript provided, Malinsky set out to prove a close relationship between Becker and two publications, The Weekly/Silicon Valley Voice and San Jose Spotlight. He cited frequent communications between Becker, two members of The Weekly staff and Spotlight cofounder Ramona Giwargis. Malinsky never intimated that there was a relationship between Becker and the San Francisco Chronicle.
However, Malinsky’s investigator Ben Holt testified that the Silicon Valley Voice was the first publication to post an article on the preliminary civil grand jury report. Holt testified that the Silicon Valley Voice article did not include a copy of the document.
Holt said that by 8:58 a.m., the Chronicle had its own article online, followed by the San Jose Spotlight. Holt said the Spotlight was the first news agency to include a copy of the preliminary report.
In the 850-plus pages of criminal grand jury testimony, Malinsky does not dive deeply into how the Chronicle obtained the document. He also does not prove that there was a close relationship to the Chronicle with any of the witnesses who testified before the criminal grand jury.
If Malinsky asked Gillmor about a relationship with reporters from the Chronicle, it was not discussed in his summary of her testimony.
However, history has shown that Gillmor has some form of connection to the Chronicle, specifically reporters Ron Kroichick and Lance Williams, the two reporters who published the initial article about the preliminary civil grand jury report.
For example, the Chronicle quickly posted an article claiming that Becker told Council Member Kathy Watanabe to “go f—k yourself” during the Aug. 30, 2022 closed session of the City Council. The incident, which Becker was later cleared of through an independent investigation, occurred during a discussion about a settlement agreement with the San Francisco 49ers.
During his testimony, Becker said Williams called him for a quote about the settlement and the incident mere hours after it was discussed.
“He [Williams] usually calls my personal [phone]. Sometimes I try not to talk to him, mainly because his reporting has been very bias. I take the call, for example, in—in August 31st, he—or sorry, I think it was September, one of those two days, he gave me a phone call and said he was sitting there reading the settlement agreement,” Becker testified to the civil grand jury. “And I said, how is that possible he’s reading the settlement agreement when I just got the settlement agreement in my hands, in my e-mail? And he had questions about it. And I said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t discuss closed session matters to reporters or the public.’ And then he says, ‘Even when the police were called?’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry, I have nothing further to say.’”
Malinsky did not pursue the line of questioning.
What About GrandJuryReport.com?
Both Jain and Becker reference grandjuryreport.com in their testimony.
“He [Becker] told me about this website, grandjuryreport.com, which apparently was registered by the Police Officers Association on October 7th, 36 hours after I received the grand jury report,” Jain told Malinsky. “And I was very surprised that the POA would have published that, especially since the grand jury report was very negative to five of the City Council members.”
Malinsky did not pursue that line of questioning.
At a later time in the interview, Jain again mentioned the website as something he discussed with Becker between Oct. 5, 2022 and Oct. 10, 2022.
“The only thing we [myself and Becker] did talk about was that there were news reports of the grand jury report, one was the Santa Clara Weekly. I believe that was on either the 6th or 7th, and then the grandjuryreport.com, which was put up by the POA on the morning of October 7th,” Jain testified.
Again, Malinsky did not pursue that line of questioning.
Becker’s testimony to the civil grand jury, which was read into the criminal grand jury transcript by investigator Holt, also mentioned the site grandjuryreport.com. In that testimony, Becker said the weekend before the report was supposed to be released, the group Stand Up for Santa Clara was running ads on Facebook for the grandjuryreport.com website. Becker says the site quoted the report even though it was not released.
The first snapshot of the grandjuryreport.com on the internet archive known as the “Wayback Machine” does not appear until Oct. 13, 2022. It’s worth noting that the “Wayback Machine” does not capture snapshots of every site, every time it is updated.
A search of the WHOIS database shows that the site grandjuryreport.com was registered on Oct. 7, 2022 at 10:40:53Z. In timestamps, Z stands for Zero timezone, often referred to as Universal Time (UTC). If you adjust the time, it shows that the site was created approximately 41 minutes after the Silicon Valley Voice published its article at 3 a.m.
Were Other Santa Clara City Council Members Involved?
It is unclear whether other Santa Clara City Council members were involved in leaking the document. There was little to no reference to two council members, Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal, in the transcript.
Council Member Suds Jain was called to testify before the criminal grand jury. As stated in a previous article, Jain testified that Becker told him that he (Becker) leaked the document to the media. When Jain was asked directly if he leaked the report, Jain said no.
Like Gillmor, Council Member Kevin Park’s testimony was also summarized but not included in the court records. According to Malinsky, former 49ers Vice President Rahul Chandhok’s phone records show a call from Park to Chandhok at 11:34 a.m. on Oct. 6, 2022 that lasted approximately seven minutes. In separate testimonies, neither Park nor Chandhok can recall what was discussed.
Malinsky says Park “was asked multiple times about leaking the grand jury report.” In all instances, Park denied leaking the report.
Council Member Kathy Watanabe’s testimony was also summarized by Malinsky.
“She admitted showing the grand jury report to her husband when she received it because—again, this is in summary, but she was so pleased and excited by the contents,” said Malinsky.
Malinsky said Watanabe denied leaking the report. Malinsky also said Watanabe’s husband was interviewed via Zoom and denied leaking the report.
How Many People had Access to the “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” Report?
The preliminary civil grand jury report was clearly the worst kept secret in the City of Santa Clara. Not only did all of the members of the Santa Clara City Council have it, but it was delivered to them by Interim City Attorney Steve Ngo. The significant other of at least one member of the City Council also viewed the report.
In previous testimony, it was revealed that City Clerk Hosam Haggag did not open the initial email containing the report. The representative for the Superior Court of Santa Clara County called the City Clerk’s office and then emailed the report to Assistant City Clerk Nora Pimentel and the City’s public facing email address.
The Weekly is working to receive clarification about whether Haggag was on leave that day and exactly how many City employees have access to the public facing email address for the City Clerk’s office.
In Malinsky’s summary of Gillmor’s testimony, it is clear that Gillmor emailed the document to her personal email and printed the report at her office. It was unclear who has access to Gillmor’s personal email, how many people have access to the printer at her office that she used to print the document and what Gillmor did with the document once it was printed out in hardcopy.
By the Saturday before the official grand jury report was set to be released, The Weekly, the Chronicle, the Spotlight and the Mercury News all had articles posted online about the contents of the civil grand jury report.
Testimony presented in the criminal grand jury transcript shows that the 49ers also had it. And, as shown through the WHOIS database, the website grandjuryreport.com was already purchased.
Since the court case has not started, it is unclear if the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office plans to attribute all of these leaks to Becker or if charges for other people involved are to come. However, given the line of questioning presented in the current criminal grand jury transcripts, it is clear that Becker was the target of the investigation from the start.
Editor’s Note: The transcripts from the criminal grand jury consisted of approximately 850-pages of testimony. The Weekly has determined that there are many storylines in the document that affect the City of Santa Clara and its residents. As a result, this is just one of a series of articles about what was revealed in the criminal grand jury transcripts. By law, we cannot share the entire document with the public.