Audrie Pott’s Parents: Attack Ad in Sheriff’s Race ‘Tasteless’

Parents of Audrie Pott, the Saratoga teen who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by classmates, are furious about a political mailer that makes it look like they support Kevin Jensen in the Santa Clara County sheriff’s race.

A mailer endorsing Jensen, a retired lieutenant, lists a series of alleged “blunders” by 16-year incumbent Sheriff Laurie Smith. It accuses Smith of failing to discipline a deputy for mistakes made during a 2007 rape investigation at De Anza Community College. It also alleges she gave 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith “celebrity treatment” during his DUI and weapons possession arrests in 2012 and 2013.

But the mailer crossed a line, according to the Pott family, when it cited a 2013 Rolling Stone article that reported Smith lost evidence in the Pott social media bullying and rape case, which eventually led to the defendants walking away with minimal sentencing.

Kevin Jensen's supporters sent out this mailer, which specifically mentions Audrie Pott and her case.

Kevin Jensen's supporters sent out this mailer, which specifically mentions Audrie Pott and her case.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Larry Pott, Audrie’s father. “Absolutely ridiculous. They’re talking about a justice issue, something that happened in court. This had nothing to do with the sheriff."

The Pott family, which now runs a nonprofit foundation, wants to make clear that it doesn’t support either candidate for sheriff.

“Regardless, for anybody to do this, to make it look like we’re endorsing anyone, is just a tasteless travesty,” Larry Pott told San Jose Inside. “We feel that this was done without any effort to contact us. We have nothing to do with it, but here I start getting calls from me friends, from my mom, because my picture is on it.”

Lisa Pott, Audri's stepmother, called the piece “terrible.”

“I can tell you specifically that no evidence was ‘lost’ nor did anyone ‘walk free,’” she said. “The light sentences were handed out by Judge Jesus Valencia, not the sheriff. The flyer was so bad that we really felt we had to speak out. …We will not allow our family to be a part of a political campaign that spreads lies, or any political campaign, for that matter.”

Kevin Jensen is now distancing himself from his staunch supporters after a campaign mailer used the Audrie Pott tragedy for political purposes.

Kevin Jensen is now distancing himself from his staunch supporters after a campaign mailer used the Audrie Pott tragedy for political purposes.

Jensen tried to distance himself from the mailer, although it is paid for by his biggest supporters: the Correctional Peace Officers Association (CPOA) and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA). Without these groups, Jensen would have virtually no institutional support and little name recognition. His personal campaign raised just $16,296 as of March 17, while the outside groups supporting Jensen and opposing Smith have spent more than $200,000.

“What they do, their campaign, is independent from me,” says Jensen, who sent an open letter articulating as much after securing their endorsements last year. “I appreciate their support, but I want to keep my message clean. I don’t want pieces that distract from my message.”

The mailers mark another misstep by the union-backed committee endorsing Jensen.

Complaints to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in March pointed to discrepancies in their campaign filings. Also, earlier this month, his supporters posted up a pro-Jensen banner on a Highway 85 overpass that caused a 40-minute traffic jam.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

20 Comments

  1. “What they do, their campaign, is independent from me,” says Jensen

    Mr. Jensen: In your radio interviews and speeches you have been parroting the same message regarding the Pott case as this DSA/CPOA mailer did. How do you explain that?

    The buzz in my fav MH coffee stop is after you retired from the Sheriff’s Dept. you went to work for the father of one of the suspect’s in the Pott case and a news station might be investigating. How do you explain that?

    Mr. Jensen, you preach honesty and integrity. If you truly practice what you preach then you would bow out of the sheriff’s race, as any victory for you would a hollow and tainted one, gained from the fruits of a poisonous tree.

    Morgan Hill Native

  2. I completely understand how the Potts family feels. When my friend was murdered, his murder case and his family’s name was drug into a campaign as well. When I directly asked the candidate AND the reporter to stop it, I was ignored. Neither the candidate nor the reporter cared one bit about the affect it had on my friend’s wife and children. It was all about winning at any cost.

    My friend’s widow suffered heart problems and a mild stroke due to the stress of the trial, and the media coverage. It got so bad during the campaign that she and one of her daughters moved out of the area.

    I’ve seen our present Sheriff use victims to win her elections. I remember seeing her on TV with the young women involved in the Deanza rape case blasting the DA for not filing charges. (Smith was running for re-election when she did this, and had been endorsed by the very DA she was blasting.)

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/ci_15184198
    http://www.orovillemr.com/ci_15161099

    This Sheriff’s race, as with all other races for Sheriff I’ve seen has been brutal. The flier is offensive but much of what it says is factual, at least according to what I’ve read, and seen on TV.

    Further, I find it offensive that Rich Robinson, on behalf of his candidate, called Mark Klaas and other victims rights advocates “uninformed” when they endorsed Kevin Jensen for Sheriff. He completely ignored the basis for their reasons for being unhappy with our present incumbent Sheriff Laurie Smith, and tried to deflect their factual points with hyperbole, and by pointing fingers at other Jensen supporters. There were also claims that Kevin Jensen paid a victims rights group for their endorsement, which I find disgusting as well.

    I know for a fact that Kevin Jensen did not approve of the flier this article refers to because he has always asked supporters to be respectful and to keep it clean, regardless of what his opposition says or does.

    The bottom line for me is this: Candidates need to STOP using victims of crime and their families to win elections. They need to stick to the issues and their qualifications. While I do want to hear the facts about a candidate’s missteps or shortcomings, I do not want to read, see, or hear many of the lies, and misrepresentations that have become so common place in elections today.

    • The Sheriff never used any victims in campaign literature. The three women witnesses came forward after lies were being spread about the Sheriff’s Office handling of the case. The Sheriff never blasted the D.A. for not pressing charges, though she did disagree with the assessment that was insufficient evidence to warrant a crime. Marc Klaas was misinformed and compromised when he was used by the DSA to attack the Sheriff. The Sheriff will not comment on the Sierra LaMarr case and it was equally offensive for the DSA to use that family in a political attack. Get your facts straight before you opine.

      • I was typing too fast–Sierra Lamar is the correct spelling. BTW: When the evidence is presented in court, everyone will see what this Sheriff has done to protect the public.

      • Marc Klaas made a statement based on his experience searching for missing youth. He did not call the Sheriff a derogatory name, he simply simply stated that the Sheriff stonewalled the investigation and you classify this as an attack. He is not a puppet, he has a mind of his own and really has nothing to gain personally from the outcome of this election. So I agree with Kathleen, when authentic and pertinent questions get brought up, it seems that Laurie’s campaign deflects them by casting accusations back instead of answering questions. I would love to see a debate when the public can hear both Laurie Smith and Kevin Jensen unfiltered by their media counterparts. Any chance of this happening Rich Robinson?

      • Rich- We can agree to disagree on your perception of what the facts are in all of these cases. Further, I would like you to show me where in my post that I said,” The Sheriff used any victims in campaign literature.” You won’t find it because it is NOT there.

        However, since you want the FACTS, I would encourage you to please go back into both written and televised stories about your client’s behavior toward our former DA, and how she made her disapproval of the former DA’s handling of the DeAnza rape case known to avoid accountability for how HER department poorly handled the case, thus making it impossible for our former DA to file charges against these alleged rapists. I posted two articles showing that your client flip flopped on this topic. BTW- It clearly states that, “She declined to be interviewed regarding the rape case.”

        I personally was stunned to see your client’s behavior toward a woman she endorsed. Our former DA’s findings in the DeAnza rape case was found to be credible, and legally correct. And that is an undeniable fact.

        Further, I’m not going to debate or engage in verbal Judo with you over the unprofessional way that you and your client chose to respond to both Mr. Klaas and the advocates of victims of violent crime’s endorsement of Mr. Jensen. I don’t think Mr. Klaas or this group deserved to be bashed, attacked, or whatever you want to call it. I disagree that they were manipulated or misinformed by anyone. I think they stood up for what they believe in and I applaud them for it.

        Also, I find calling members of our respected law enforcement departments, and her opponent names like, “Key Stone Cops, liars, Wanna Be, and Dumb,” to be unprofessional and counter productive. I would think your client would want to build bridges and try to work with them on their concerns, rather than alienate them.

        In closing, let me just say that we do agree on one thing. The manner in which the Potts family was brought into this flier was inappropriate, and unprofessional. I’ve been in their shoes when my friend’s murder was being used to win an election. I saw the pain and anguish it caused his family. No one should have to lose a loved one to murder and then have their pain exploited just to win a campaign.

    • Kathleen, to be fair, you state, “Candidates need to STOP using victims of crime and their families to win elections. They need to stick to the issues and their qualifications.”

      The fact remains the direct interference from the administration into these very cases is the issue and does reflect on the incumbents qualifications as a leader and who she has chosen for promotion and why. The impact of her and her administrations decisions is an public safety issue for any one with children in this county.

      If it was just the Pott case, I would agree, bringing up a single failed investigation would be inappropriate — things go wrong sometimes. However it is not one failed case, and professionals who were involved at all levels have stepped forward — in regards to Metcalf, Pott, LaMar, De Anza, Lomeli-Rojas — and said this is not a one time “things happen sometimes” incident. This type of interference has become a systemic problem at the top, approved by an elected official.

      How may cases have to be damaged before it’s okay to say that things aren’t what they should be? How many young women and their families have to endure their loved one’s coming second to the sheriff’s budget and political aspirations before it’s okay to speak out about a very serious problem in the sheriff’s office?

      Even today as we talk about these things, the incumbent and her captains continue to make these types of bad decisions, refusing to send out investigators for nearly 48 hours on an attempted murder at the beginning of this month?

      Where does it end? How do we let the people know if we are “dirty” for bringing up these cases?

      The incumbent wants to change the dialogue here — they do not want us talking about the many, many cases that she has allowed or even personally directed the interference in.

      As I said before, I am sorry this conversation has to happen, I am sorry for the loss of the Pott family, I can not imagine being a mother who lost a child, but this conversation does have to happen. I can not imagine staying silent knowing that another mother could lose her child or not get justice because an incumbent was allowed to skate by into a 5th term to assuage her ego because we’re afraid to talk about things that are hard to talk about.

      If there was another way to let the people know that our sheriff’s office is failing to do it’s job correctly because of the leadership without telling people exactly what they’re doing wrong and the impact it has on the public, I’m open to hearing it.

      • Casey- Please let me clarify my statement about candidates using victims to win elections. I was NOT referring to just the flier per say. I was referring to candidates who take these murder victims and or their families and exploit them in front of or in the press just to get votes. These families are already going through hell and should not be exposed to politics at a time when they can barely cope with the loss of a loved one or have been a victim of crime themselves. I have worked with these families, helped bury their lost loved ones, and have advocated for them when they’ve needed me to.

        I have had my own personal experience in this area as well. My friend was murdered and his family, and other families of homicide victims, and victims of violent crime were asked to endorse candidates running for office. I’ve even seen community groups use these folks to bash the Police or whatever entity they want to hurt. I think that this behavior is outrageous! Further, to use these families/victims in a campaign, especially when the family has asked the candidate NOT to use their names or cases during their campaign is completely unacceptable.

        I do agree with you 100% that the public needs to know the truth when a candidate has failed to ensure public safety, refused to send out investigators to gather credible evidence so that victims receive justice, and that discussions about cases that have been handled poorly need to be reported. What I take exception with is how and WHEN it is reported.

        For example, in this article I do not see facts or balance. As a matter of fact, I see this article going from reporting a statement from the Pott’s family to giving out misinformation on the Sheriff’s opponent. There is no disclosure on the Metro’s relationship with our current Sheriff or with her opponent. There is no quote by the party responsible for sending out the flier.

        There is a statement that a pro-Jensen banner stopped traffic for 40 minutes. Well, that is not true because the news reported that there was an accident that stopped traffic, not a banner. The list of bad reporting and media misinformation given to the public is endless.

        The bottom line for me is that sensitivity towards the victims and their family’s is vital along with factual/ unbiased reporting, and integrity in campaigns by candidates. We are sorely lacking all of these things during election time.

        • Kathleen,

          I do understand your point. And as far as I know, the DSA, CPOA, Kevin Jensen, myself nor anyone else supporting Kevin’s campaign has asked any of these families to endorse Kevin. Danny Domingo came to me wholly on his own to use my blog to make a statement in regards to his role in the search for Sierra LaMar. I asked him to ensure all parties were okay with what we were going to put out and he did. Marc Klaas and others followed on with their own efforts.

          No one has or has been asked to step up from any of these events outside me asking people who were involved in the investigations to tell their stories through my blog. I’ve known about many of these cases for some time. I winced at the strategy I chose to use knowing I was putting people on the spot, there are few of us who have not been touched by violence in this world. But as I said, this is a conversation that MUST happen. I hate that it has to happen.. for the families, but for this office as well. It’s a rotten conversation to get into for everyone. But we can NOT have public safety and allow this to continue.

          As for quotes from the DSA/CPOA PAC personnel who put out they flyer. I did contact them to find out if they were contacted by anyone at SJI in regards to their actions, the reasoning behind their actions, etc. They were not contacted for their side of the story in any way form or manner by Ms. Wadsworth. To me, that smacks of yellow journalism and a sorry lack of professionalism on her part.

          But as you point out, The owner of SJI being a close friend of the incumbent, her daughter an employee of this “organization” some of us expect no more than this and we certainly don’t expect any disclosure.

          I just hope this over soon with the election of a new sheriff who wants to do better for the community and takes public safety seriously — Kevin Jensen.

          Casey

          • Also I would like to point out that Rich Robinson states above “The Sheriff never used any victims in campaign literature.”

            That ended as of this morning around 11:30AM when a fundraising email started hitting people’s email boxes using this article.

            *********************
            We want to keep our supporters up to date. Below is the link the to the most recent article regrading the Sheriff’s race.

            San Jose Inside Article on ‘Attack’ Ads
            Remember to Vote on June 3rd!
            Thank you for all your support!
            ***********************************

            The flyer may be offensive to some, but it was not an attempt to gain funds by using the families. The DSA/CPOA was dispersing information to the public, nothing more, nothing less, so they could make an educated vote on June 3rd.

            I will be happy to forward the email to anyone who wishes a copy so they can see for themselves what the sheriff’s campaign sent out to “friends” and hoping they wouldn’t be called on it.

          • Casey- Thank you for your comments and clarification. I didn’t know, ” The owner of SJI being a close friend of the incumbent, her daughter an employee of this “organization.” If this is true, then it should have been disclosed because it does make a difference to me. I just knew that they always endorse the present Sheriff.

            On another note: I can speak first hand about the generosity of the DSA/CPOA towards victims of violent crime and families of homicide victims. Every year, I partner with many community organizations and hold several candlelit vigils to remember fallen members of law enforcement/fire fighters, and victims of homicide. These agencies, along with the SJPD, and the DA’s Office come out and pray with us.

            I have also seen and heard about them donating to families of homicide victims so that they can bury their lost loved ones. I know they donate to rape victims, domestic violence victims, Crime Stoppers, and other vital organizations and families in need. I have the deepest respect and appreciation for them for helping these families.

            Like you, my thoughts and prayers go out to the Potts family. My heart is just broken for them. I work with Ann of the Amanda Network and have seen the incredible pain she and her husband have gone through since Amanda hung herself, and passed a way last year. They are the most loving, caring people I have ever had the honor of meeting and working with.

            I look forward to June 3rd being over too. My hope is that voters really do their homework before casting their votes. Our children’s and our community’s health and well being depends on it.

  3. The mailer sent out by the DSA and CPOA was not done tastefully and I was unhappy with it, but so was Jensen. That is a fact. What bothers me is how people either love the union or hate the union depending on who they are endorsing. I have not forgotten the TV commercial that aired 4 years ago when Calderon was running for Sheriff. A union representative used manure to cover a picture of Calderon. No one seemed to call this tasteless or wrong, but then again, they were supporting Laurie Smith. This time around, the news links on Laurie’s web page link directly to articles that use names such as Keystone Kops, Dirty, Dumb, Wannabe. From Kevin’s page, there are no such links. The union mailer was tasteless, but it brought up some questions that I would like to hear an answer to. Laurie Smith commented on the Aldon Smith issue this week in the Palo Alto Daily Post, but she contradicted what she had said in an interview with NBC investigative unit last Fall, so not a lot of transparency there. I would as far as saying that this article itself exploits the Pott family because it is not simply an interview telling the public how they feel about the mailer, the ending includes disparaging remarks about the Jensen campaign. I encourage people to take their concerns straight to the candidates through their websites and make an informed decision based on what THEY have to say and not based on what others say for or about them.

  4. Interesting discussion. Did anyone notice the ‘Willie Horton’ like depiction of Aldon Smith? Willie Horton was a murderer that then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis paroled who later killed again upon release. George Bush Sr. used this against him in the 1988 Presidential Election which Bush won. Yes, he (Smith) is an immature, spoiled professional athlete, but he’s no ‘Willie Horton’! I was offended by the usage of his wacky picture and stupid actions to infer that Black people are to be feared and that Sheriff Smith is letting ‘scary Black people’ run amok. Neither inference is true.

    • Craig- The photo you are talking about has been on the internet since his arrest. The photo wasn’t taken by the folks making the flier.

      I don’t agree that there was any intent, “to infer that Black people are to be feared and that Sheriff Smith is letting ‘scary Black people’ run amok.” They put the item on the flier because Aldon Smith was arrested and plead guilty to: http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_25809146/49ers-aldon-smith-set-plead-guilty-dui-weapons.

      It is pretty obvious that Aldon Smith received preferential treatment and that flying him around in a tax payer funded helicopter to a shooting range, after his arrest was inappropriate. The Sheriff now admits that in hindsight, she shouldn’t have done that.

  5. Why waste your time arguing about this. Frankly, Kevin Jensen is a douche (from what I’ve heard) and Smith will be re-elected. It’s not even worth wasting time over. Don’t quit your day job, Kevin.

      • Wow! This is shocking Casey. I understand that supporters can get passionate about advocating for their desired candidate, however, the comments made by Wendy Stegeman, who is a teacher, and a member of the East Side Teachers Association are shameful, untrue, and beyond libelous. Isn’t allowing these kinds of derogatory and libelous comments to remain on the Sheriff’s Facebook a violation of campaign laws?

        Further, to accuse Kevin Jensen of wanting “to go down to guard the border and shoot folks coming over,” is not just liable, it is horrific, especially since Kevin’s wife is Hispanic! Further, to see Rich Robinson “LIKE,” the comment shows us exactly who he is, and his hypocrisy in fair campaigning!

        Given this behavior, I’m beginning to wonder who approached the Pott family to do this article in the first place, what the connections between these parties are, and whether or not we’ll see another article, TV commercial, or interview from this grieving family against Kevin Jensen and his supporters.

        Once again, I strongly believe that families like the Pott family should never be re-victimized by dragging them into political campaigns, and any one running for office should be ashamed of themselves for doing so.

        • Kathleen, the relationship is connected through the Sheriff’s friend, Christopher Schumb and the Pott’s attorney, also friends of the Sheriff and Mr. Schumb, Robert Allard of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, LLP.

          Schumb and Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard are both contributors to the Sheriff as well.

          Some of their relationship is outlined on another blog by people more familiar with the political connections of the sheriff than I. I left you a link on your post on the CT blog since SJI chooses about 40% of the time or better to not allow my posts with links.