Shirakawa Trial Delayed to September, Will Cost Taxpayers

George Shirakawa Jr.’s next day in court got kicked back six months to Sept. 15, meaning the ex-county supervisor could be nearly four months out of jail before his political mail fraud trial begins.

That may or may not be a good thing for other people involved in the case.

Shirakawa’s taxpayer-provided attorney, Jay Rorty, filed a kitchen-sink motion on March 12 asking for the trial to be continued due to: conflicting court dates; ongoing discovery; extensions needed to conduct polling and research for a change of venue motion; and a need to analyze DNA evidence.

Prosecutor John Chase, who heads up the District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit and is trying the case, told San Jose Inside that the motion made some “legitimate points” but will also serve his investigators well as they continue to follow up on leads.

“We’re still trying to investigate a little bit, and as long as the trial is out there, it helps us a little bit,” he said. “It was more beneficial to us to allow the continuance to happen.”

Chase added that despite Rorty's latest motion the case most likely could have gone to trial in May or June, but some DA witnesses would have been unavailable because of summer vacation plans.

Shirakawa, who is currently in Santa Rita Jail after resigning last year and pleading guilty to embezzling campaign funds, has been charged with one count of false personation in his current case. Prosecutors say his DNA was found on the stamp of a 2010 election mailer that depicted Magdalena Carrasco—the opponent of Shirakawa friend and San Jose Councilman Xavier Campos—as a proud communist to East San Jose’s Vietnamese voters.

Carrasco, who is once again running against Campos in this year’s election, lost the 2010 primary to Campos by just 20 votes, several weeks after the illegal flyers were sent out.

Rorty is representing Shirakawa through the county’s Indigent Legal Defense Office and he has been paid $9,020.54 for work completed up through January, according to county records. (The Mercury News' Tracey Kaplan first reported that number, which was available as a result of San Jose Inside's Public Records Act request. Well played, Kaplan.) The IDO taps local attorneys to take cases when there are conflicts of interest with a defendant and the Public Defender’s office as well as the Alternate Defender’s office.

During his trial last year, prosecutors showed text messages George Shirakawa Jr. sent following his guilty plea, including the acronym "LOL" to Chief Assistant DA Jay Boyarsky. His crimes have already cost the county roughly $3 million.

During his trial last year, prosecutors showed text messages George Shirakawa Jr. sent following his guilty plea, including the acronym "LOL" to Chief Assistant DA Jay Boyarsky. His crimes have already cost the county roughly $3 million.

County taxpayers’ cost to defend Shirakawa, who is already responsible for almost $3 million spent on audits and two special elections last year, will certainly increase between now and the trial. Rorty hired Dr. Bryan Edelman as a second change-of-venue expert after Dr. Edward Bronson, his first consultant, had to back out due to “scheduling conflicts.” The defense has also contracted with San Francisco-based DNA expert Bicka Barlow.

New legal defense bills that include February will be available next week, as IDO billing is paid a month after the fact. (Rorty’s fee, like all IDO attorneys contracted by the county, is $110 per hour, according to James Gleason.)

How the trial delay impacts someone like Campos, who directly benefited from the mail fraud and is currently running for re-election, remains uncertain. Last October, Campos invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions at a grand jury hearing that led to Shirakawa's indictment in the case. Linda Delgado, who served as the campaign treasurer to Campos and Shirakawa during the latter’s 2008 county supervisor race, also took the Fifth.

Chase told San Jose Inside that the new trial date could result in the expiration of the statute of limitations—four years after the discovery of a crime—for others who may have had a role in the mail fraud. This means Campos, who has not been charged with any crime, would officially be clear of any wrongdoing but potentially not exempt from invoking the Fifth Amendment in the fall.

Xavier Campos invoked the Fifth Amendment during a grand jury hearing last year, and any potential charges against the San Jose councilman could expire due to the statute of limitations.

Xavier Campos invoked the Fifth Amendment during a grand jury hearing last year, and any potential charges against the San Jose councilman could expire due to the statute of limitations.

Xavier Campos invoked the Fifth Amendment during a grand jury hearing last year, and any potential charges against the San Jose councilman could expire due to the statute of limitations.

“If the statute of limitations is up in May, then it’s not clear if Xavier Campos would have the right to take the Fifth Amendment after that date,” Chase said.

The FPPC, which has been investigating Campos’ 2010 campaign since last April, when San Jose Inside reported that he used Delgado as his treasurer and had some financial irregularities, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

7 Comments

    • Disappointed in George? Check.
      Disappointed in Nora? Check.
      Disappointed in Xavier? Check.
      Prepared to be disappointed in Magdalena? Check.

      I’ve long since ceased being surprised by the poor choices made by the oh so “enlightened” Democrat electorate of this city.
      Unprincipled pandering works here. So who do we get in public office? Unprincipled panderers of course. Precisely what we deserve. And the pathetic voters of District X would still be deafly, dumbly, blindly content with their misguided selection had not JK come along and upset their apple cart.
      But has anything really changed since King George was deposed? As long as the people still believe that the best government is the government that provides them with the most freebies then I would suggest that the status is still exactly quo.
      Shirakawa.
      Campos.
      Ms. Campos.
      Carrasco maybe.
      The faces of the politicians may change but it’s the character of the voters that defines the sort of government we get.
      I would submit that San jose bends over backwards to attract and empower the sort of people who are likely to elect crooks like George Shirakawa. So until we gain the courage to address the root of the problem we’re condemned to fighting a losing battle against corruption in spite of any “heroic journalist” antics supplied by the likes of Josh and his crew.

      • You sound like a morally superior individual. Too bad we don’t have monarchs, because you seem like the perfect fit what with your hiding behind a keyboard to laude so much vitriol. Try running for public office, Mr. Galt. I would like to see what is dug up about your life and your past. : )

        • I dunno Daniel. He makes a good point. Kissups and crony’s have an easier time getting in than anyone critical of elected officials or the quid quo pro.

          Gotta wonder where George learned his tricks from though. Maybe from his old campaign manager?

  1. Big George’s lawyer wants to delay the trial until after the primary, then after the general election, so his smug, worthless former chief of staff can get re-elected. Six months or more in Santa Rita would wipe that smug grin of the face of Angry Nora’s little punk brother.

    Sadly, the D.A. went along, so he doesn’t have to work as hard as a private lawyer would to prepare for trial. Bad news from all sides on this one.