Demotion Over Hateful Texts Moves to Center Stage in Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Race

Over the course of 3,000 text messages exchanged among a handful of Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies, Don Morrissey hadn’t called anyone a “gook.” So when San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP president Jethroe Moore in January accused Morrissey of using the term, the 20-year cop who heads the county’s Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (DSA) indignantly demanded a retraction.

Morrissey insisted his only mistake was failing to carefully read a seven-month string of “stupid, offensive” text messages. “Don didn’t do anything wrong,” the DSA wrote in a news release threatening legal action against Moore.

Morrissey blamed his adversary, Sheriff Laurie Smith, for yanking him into the controversy that cost him his sergeant’s stripes. The union trotted out the same narrative about Morrissey’s previous downgrade, from lieutenant to sergeant several years prior, for spending hours a day browsing pornography at work, on the public’s payroll.

Morrissey may not have texted the anti-Asian slur, but newly unsealed documents obtained by San Jose Inside undermine his claim to victimhood.

According to a Feb. 24 arbitration decision upholding Morrissey’s demotion to deputy, the elected DSA president did more than peruse smut and tacitly countenance a slew of bigoted texts. In 2012, he used county computers to post Craigslist ads soliciting sex, tried to get coworkers to erase his digital tracks and, once caught, lied about it being part of a criminal investigation into prostitution in Saratoga, according to his own admission in arbitration records. From 2014 to 2015, he actively engaged in group texting threads rife with racist, homophobic and misogynist slurs.

“So a blow job for soup seems fair right (sic) Ryan,” Morrissey texted while on on duty Dec. 16, 2014, in a lengthy back-and-forth about inmates trading sexual favors for commissary items.

On Jan. 15, 2015, another union leader—his counterpart at the local Peace Officers’ Association, Sgt. Lance Scimeca—sent a vulgar joke: “YEAST INFECTIONS: Because once and a while women deserve to see what it feels like to live with an irritated cunt.” Morrissey responded, “Aka: Laurie Smith.”

Some of the texts began as work-related discussions. On March 9, 2015, subordinates initiated a conversation about the proper use of force under state Penal Code section 835(a) in which one of them texted, “Child molester and a moully??? Justified shoot.”

The DSA head apparently found that funny.

“Morrissey, who understood the term ‘moully’ to be a racial slur against African-Americans, responded ‘Hahaha,’ thus openly condoning and encouraging a racial slur in what could be construed legally as a public record,” attorney Morris Davis wrote in his 60-page arbitration ruling.

In other texts, the DSA president compared another deputy to a vagina and participated in threads in which Scimeca and subordinates call people “nigger loving retards,” a “Mexican Mudshark,” “howler monkeys” and “nig nogs.”

Morrissey’s demotion has moved to center stage in the heated battle between Sheriff Smith and challenger John Hirokawa, her former undersheriff, in the first contested general election for that office in 20 years.

Smith said she wanted Morrissey fired as soon as she heard about the texts while her former second-in-command defended the union leader. In September of last year, Hirokawa testified in support of Morrissey, suggesting that the county violated the union chief’s privacy and free speech rights by seizing the texts. The candidate also said that he believed Morrissey’s discipline was too severe, according to an arbitrator’s summary.

The union led by Morrissey returned the favor. It endorsed Hirokawa’s campaign two months after the retired undersheriff provided the supportive testimony and spent $186,828.35 in independent expenditures in the June primary to vault Hirokawa into the runoff. More DSA funding can be expected in November’s general election.

Dark Humor

Detectives unearthed the texts in 2015 while looking into jail deputy Ryan Saunders’ ties to the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. By extending their search from his mobile phone to those of fellow officers in group texts, they found that from December of 2014 to June the next year, union presidents Morrissey and Scimeca and a handful of subordinates known as the “A Team”—deputies Rene Lucero, Jose Ortiz, Michael Fortino and officers Jesus Perez and Charles Ramirez—exchanged thousands of messages marked by repulsive hate speech both on and off duty.

At one point, the officers even yukked it up about another agency’s texting scandal. “Morrissey was right!!!!!” Ramirez wrote on April 6, 2015, about the so-called textgate embroiling their counterparts at the San Francisco Police Department.

“Faggot, niggers, gooks are nasty,” Scimeca texted back.

“Erase, erase, erase,” Lucero offered.

“Who are you people [and] how did you get my number?” Morrissey deadpanned one line later. “The following message is Pope Francis approved: all nigger faggots go to hell,” Scimeca wrote back seven minutes later.

Morrissey feigned ignorance several times during the drawn-out exchanges, including on March 17, 2015, in response to texts saying “filthy niggers have never been thought of highly” and “sorry if I offended any of you nigger loving pussy fags.” And again a week prior after Lucero, Ramirez and Saunders mocked a deputy, calling him a predator and saying he struggles to draw a line because he’s Mexican.

“Hey, Morrissey, where do we send in our phones to be destroyed?” Ramirez asked part way through a digital canon of offensive diatribes. Morrissey pretended to tune him out: “Morrissey is not here,” he quickly replied.

Scimeca continued the thread with a text celebrating racist brutality. “Never shall I split black oak,” Scimeca wrote, using a derogatory metaphor for a white man having sex with a black woman, “but I might be willing to chain one to the bumper and take it for a 55mph walk.”

Morrissey went silent as the others teased him about his passive disapproval. “What happened to Donnie?” Saunders asked in that same thread. “Fuck I like that dude. Quit running him off.” After a few more inflammatory texts, Saunders wrote, “Donny has to be deleting like crazy.”

The closest Morrissey came to chastising fellow officers was on Feb. 13, 2015. Scimeca began a chain of texts with, “What do you say to a nigger in a suit? Will the defendant please rise.” Saunders joined in with a crack of his own: “What does a black dude do after sex? Fifteen to life.” They quickly dispensed with any semblance of joke structure and fired off a bunch of epithets.

“Fuck niggers … they smell,” Lucero said. “Apes,” Scimeca added.

Then it got personal, with insults against the sheriff and her top brass. Namely, undersheriffs Hirokawa and Carl Neusel and then-Capt. Troy Beliveau.

“Fuck captain suck ass Beuliviue (sic) … cunt ass piece of shit!” Lucero wrote.

Scimeca answered: “You know he sucks Laurie’s ass. Blows Neusel. Tosses off [masturbates] Hiro with chopsticks, too.”

They dissed other higher-ranking staffers, saying a female officer “shares the pussy” and talking about how a black officer “has a bigger dick.”

Righteous indignation was apparently too much to expect from Morrissey.

“You fuckers done yet??” he asked, sounding more irritated than outraged. “I was at the movies while your anger was spewing.”

Other times, Morrissey met reams of discriminatory messages with silence. On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2014, Scimeca sent Morrissey a text saying, “Happy birthday, Buckwheat!” with Lucero chiming in, “My nigga!” Morrissey said nothing.

On Jan. 26, 2015, Scimeca sent a video montage of police shooting African-American men, saying the sequence gave him a “HARD ON” before adding, “Mother Nigger Down.” Morrissey again said nothing and denied seeing the video. Although records show that even after investigators later made him watch it, he testified that he didn’t consider it to be threatening enough to alert a superior.

In other text-versations, Morrissey was more gregarious. On Dec. 13, 2015, Scimeca teased Morrissey about giving him a new moniker.

“Your name can be ‘Queer-Britt,’” Scimeca wrote. Or “PortugueseSausageLover,” he added, before exclaiming, “Even our Gooks don’t like niggers.”

“Who Quan or the little shemale who looks like him?” Morrissey asked in return.

Months after the Ferguson protests and Black Lives Matter put police brutality into the national spotlight, the group scoffed at the movement.

“Why do black people block the highway when they get mad?” Saunders wrote about an Oakland protest making headlines. “Not a joke, but why? Of all things.”

“Howler monkeys gotta howl, nig-nogs gotta nig … enough said,” Scimeca pinged back.

“If it’s dark out they stand a high chance of getting run over,” Morrissey replied.

They made sexual comments about colleagues. On March 2, 2015, Ramirez texted a link to a pornographic image of a woman blowing smoke from her anus and vagina. Morrissey responded: “I didn’t know Perez smoked,” referring to one of his texting pals.

On Dec. 16, 2014, Morrissey prattled on and on about transactional sex in the jails. “The shit they [inmates] do for soups,” the officer wrote, adding, “What?? I’m a giver, but I don’t believe they should get anything for free. What lesson will they learn?” He continued by asking whether a blow job for soup seemed like a fair trade and “how many soups to have your ass licked.”

Don Morrissey downplayed some of the questionable texts as gallows humor. (Source: Don Morrissey arbitration)

Free Speech?

The Mercury News first reported on the texting probe in December of 2015 with the jail still under investigation for inmate Michael Tyree’s fatal beating by deputies Matthew Farris, Rafael Rodriquez and Jereh Lubrin. Sheriff Smith—already grappling with intense backlash from the Tyree murder—swiftly denounced the officers in the texting ring and called for their firing. Critics saw her condemnation as a cynical duck for cover amid unprecedented scrutiny from media, a citizen reform task force and attorneys litigating to fix the county’s troubled jails. Morrissey and Scimeca saw it as revenge.

While Scimeca and the other officers eventually took the fall for what they wrote, Morrissey never openly acknowledged his misconduct. Only now, with the newly released arbitration opinion, has the extent of his involvement come to light.

The record shows that Morrissey made one excuse after another for his failure to supervise. The union boss claimed to have never read many of the texts because he was busy with work and family. He also said he wrongly assumed that sending them on personal cellular phones kept them safe from scrutiny—despite settled case law and county policy to the contrary.

Morrissey further testified that he thought he only had to report misconduct on duty, even though a vast portion of the texts were indeed exchanged when one or more of the officers was at work and referenced colleagues and superiors. The union official said the county failed to adequately train him on policies that clearly require supervisors to immediately report or curtail misconduct.

At times, Morrissey contradicted his own testimony. In one conversation, he said he didn’t report the texts because he believed that someone had to be offended by the language for it to constitute a policy violation. Yet he later claimed to have found the language appalling, which by his own definition would’ve made it a reportable offense.

In their report completed in April of 2016, former Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan, former Oakland Lt. Michael Yoell and attorney Renne Sloane—independent investigators hired at Hirokawa’s behest to avoid the appearance of bias—found every single officer in the texting ring guilty of misconduct. Though they partially exonerated Morrissey for texting relatively less often and occasionally expressing mild disapproval, investigators say he still violated policy by failing to report wrongdoing.

General Order #11.00 specifies that, “employees of the Sheriff’s Office, whether on or off duty, will at all times and in all places, conduct themselves in a manner that will not bring or subject the department, their fellow employees or themselves to any criticism, disgrace, or public ridicule.” And General Order #11.03 requires a supervisor who directly observes misconduct to report it.

While guidelines do not specifically address text messaging amongst a group of officers, other policies enacted by the sheriff’s department in 2002 explicitly state, “It is the policy of the Sheriff’s Office to ensure that rights guaranteed by the constitutions and laws of the United States and the State of California for all citizens regardless of their race, color, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, or sexual orientation.” Officers are further advised that, “sexually explicit images, messages” and “ethnic or racial slurs” are banned from county networks” and there is a prohibition on “creation or dissemination of harassing or demeaning statements towards any individual or group.”

Ultimately, the arbitrator said it didn’t matter what devices Morrissey and other officers used or whether they texted on or off duty. He also affirmed that their banter in no way constituted protected speech.

“The texts at issue here do not have content including political or public concern to the greater community,” Davis summarized in his opinion. “But, as [Morrissey] himself defines them, are personal expressions of bias that one might express in a bar or a living room. Here, the department’s interest in preventing officers from denigrating inmates and coworkers on the basis of their sex, national origin or race is sufficient to outweigh any arguable privacy interest.”

Morrissey cast doubt on the integrity of the investigation, saying Smith put her thumb on the scale out of the same “retaliatory animus” that led her in 2015 to block his attempt to climb back to the rank of lieutenant after supporting her re-election challenger, retired Capt. Kevin Jensen, the year before. But the arbitrator dismissed Morrissey’s suggestion of political bias, citing Smith’s promotion from deputy to sergeant of two officers who also opposed her 2014 campaign.

According to Davis, the sheriff adequately distanced herself from the disciplinary proceedings. Far from being needlessly punitive, the arbitrator wrote, Undersheriff Neusel commended Morrissey for his help with a criminal case they both worked on years earlier. And though Neusel and Assistant Sheriff Beliveau thought Morrissey committed a fireable offense, they deferred to the other officers on the disciplinary review board who recommended demotion.

The arbitrator also disputed Morrissey’s assertion that other officers who did worse things faced lesser consequences. He said the county gave “more than sufficient cause” to demote Morrissey, whose past misconduct and lack of judgment made him unqualified to supervise anyone. Instead of showing leadership, arbitration records state, “Morrissey met the outrageous, violent and bigoted text exchanges with a wink and a nudge.”

“Thus,” Davis ruled, “the demotion is upheld and the grievance denied.”

On June 6, Morrissey’s attorneys filed a petition to vacate that decision, which they made public for the first time by attaching it as an exhibit in the court docket. The appeal claims the arbitrator failed to consider evidence that the county violated Morrissey’s right to privacy by basing its decision on “improperly obtained text messages.”

Scimeca brought up that same point years earlier in September of 2015, weeks after Tyree's beating death. “Know your rights regarding personal property,” Scimeca said in a YouTube video posted in his capacity as union president. “If they do not have a warrant to take it, don't just freely give it. No one has a right to your personal property but you.”

That’s not necessarily the case, according to retired judge LaDoris Cordell, who sat on a panel to investigate police bias San Francisco after the city’s 2015 texting scandal.

“With respect to racist texting by officers on their personal cellphones, such speech is a clear indication that the officers cannot be trusted to interact with communities of color whom they despise,” she wrote in an email to San Jose Inside. “The department is under an obligation to remove these officers who, by their own words, pose a clear and present danger to the communities they have been entrusted to protect.”

Government employees, especially those who work in law enforcement, would be wise to treat their cellphone communications as a potential public record, she said.

“Their phones can be subject to discovery by the police agency in an internal affairs investigation or by a defense attorney in a criminal case or a civil attorney in a use of force lawsuit,” explained Cordell, who served as San Jose’s police auditor from 2010 to 2015. “The same is true of just about any public employee—obtainable without probable cause or a warrant.”

Union bosses and prolific texting buddies Lance Scimeca (center) and Don Morrissey (right) appeared on Que Huong television in 2014 to promote Kevin Jensen’s candidacy in the sheriff’s race. Four years later, they are both implicated in a scandal involving racist, homophobic, misogynist and generally vulgar exchanges.

Unified Front

Unions, of course, have a duty to protect their own. But some are better about balancing employee rights with public accountability.

When San Jose police Officer Phil White made threatening comments about Black Lives Matter, he nearly lost his job. The San Jose Police Officers’ Association won his position back through arbitration against the wishes of the city and top brass, but not before White agreed to own up to his mistake so the department could restore community trust.

Morrissey, by contrast, still paints his discipline as a politically motivated witch hunt, ignoring the question of whether the texts point to a problem much deeper and more systemic. As did his personal friend and former political collaborator Scimeca, who compared the investigation to a literal witch hunt. “This harkens back to the Salem Witch Trials from 1692,” he said in the same 2015 YouTube clip.

Citing the same court order that prevents Smith from elaborating, Hirokawa still echoes the DSA’s pedantic quibbling over personnel protocol, steering the conversation away from more fundamental issues of bias and accountability. Both the candidate and his biggest union backer seem more interested in how the county found out about the messages than how they undermine the integrity of their profession as a graphic reminder of institutional racism.

In a Sept. 18, 2017, interview for Morrissey’s arbitration, Hirokawa expressed concerns about First Amendment and privacy issues and said it wasn’t clear whether supervisors have a duty to report misconduct that occurs at private functions “like a birthday party, wedding, gathering or just being together and drinking.”

“And you didn't believe that that was clear in the general order, the obligation to report?” he was asked.

“For me it wasn't clear—that clear,” Hirokawa testified.

“And what was the privacy-related concern that you had?”

“The privacy would be the textings on private cell phones off duty,” Hirokawa answered.

In a recent phone interview, the ex-undersheriff echoed that same point.

“Police officers should be held to a higher standard, of course,” Hirokawa acknowledged. “But that wasn’t the question. The question was whether using racist or sexist terms makes someone a racist or sexist. If somebody uses those terms while on duty, then that’s a sustained charge.”

If they made the same remarks off duty, he added, that’s another matter.

“I would need more information,” Hirokawa said, noting that he retired long before the arbitrator issued a ruling in the case.

Policy aside, it’s hard to fathom that a supervisor who saw even a fraction of the vitriolic texts felt no moral or ethical obligation to intervene. It’s also hard not to wonder how the bias evinced in those texts affected the way Morrissey and fellow officers behaved on the job. San Francisco’s texting scandal involving 14 officers prompted authorities to revisit more than 3,000 criminal cases.

Local sheriff’s officials say the texts in Morrissey’s case had no such effect because the deputies he corresponded with worked in the jails, not on patrol.

Sheriff Smith stands by what she said three years ago about Morrissey’s involvement: that he should have no place in law enforcement.

Sheriff Laurie Smith still wants Don Morrissey gone.

“This is not a question of First Amendment rights or any other excuse,” she reiterated in an emailed statement Monday. “This is about right versus wrong and you cannot defend the indefensible. As sheriff I think they all should have been fired for their abhorrent behavior and for anyone to say a demotion is too severe of a penalty lacks the judgment to be sheriff.”

Retired U.S. Army major and combat veteran Joe LaJeunesse, a court bailiff who ran against Smith in the primary, echoed Smith’s thoughts on the subject.

“Anyone guilty of such actions, whether on- or off-duty, would have and should have been discharged,” he said upon learning of the texts.

On his campaign website, which has since been taken down, LaJeunesse also questioned DSA’s endorsement of Hirokawa.

“Is this connected to the fact that he testified on Mr. Morrissey’s behalf in the racist texts case?” he asks. “Or that the DSA vice president [Roger Winslow] is the individual who asked Hirokawa to run for sheriff in the first place? Does this sound like cronyism?”

Hirokawa said their blame is misplaced, and that the sheriff could have fired Morrissey if she honestly wanted to.

“How am I to argue whether this was an appropriate decision or an inappropriate decision?” he said of the demotion. “The message that [Smith] has been trying to portray is that somehow I was responsible for the decision or that I made the recommendations and I was trying to protect these people. So here I am having to defend myself. But I was not part of the decision-making discussions. I wasn’t privy to the strategy or the reasons why the county believes the discipline was fair or appropriate. But she was.”

Though the other texters no longer staff the jails, Morrissey remains one of Hirokawa’s key political backers.

Morrissey, who downplayed his own quips about sexual assault in jail as “dark humor,” still helms the DSA and continues serving as secretary of California’s powerful Peace Officers Research Association of California. PORAC’s mission, in addition to backing tough-on-crime bills and opposing those related to body cameras and stronger oversight—is “to provide education and training, and define and enhance standards for professionalism” and to “promote public awareness that encourages and maintains the image of a professional peace officer.”

The presence of racism, misogyny and homophobia within law enforcement organizations, though sometimes characterized as private conversations, has a public cost. It undermines the notion that all citizens are equal before the law and reinforces suspicion of police in communities that have historically faced discrimination. That influences crime prevention and public safety, and there are quantifiable costs as well.

After tapes surfaced of Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman using the n-word, a jury returned a not guilty verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. The failed prosecution cost Los Angeles County taxpayers $9 million in 1995 dollars.

Racial bias in the Los Angeles Police Department triggered riots in 1992 after the Rodney King beating. Disclosed messages from the night of the vehicle chase revealed an officer describing a domestic violence call at a black family’s home the same night as "right out of Gorillas in the Mist." The riots left more than 50 dead, 4,000 injured and an estimated $1 billion in property damage.

Ferguson, Missouri. overhauled its police department after officer Darren Wilson, who admitted using the n-word, shot and killed a black teenager he suspected of robbing a convenience store. Estimates of the costs to local agencies of dealing with the unrest in the months following the shooting range from $6 million to $22 million.

The biggest cost may be the loss of public trust.

A 2016 investigation of the Baltimore Police Department by the U.S. Department Of Justice’s Civil Rights Division found that BPD failed officers accountable for using racial slurs or engaging in acts of racial bias. Investigators “found numerous examples of BPD officers using racial slurs or making other statements that exhibit bias against African Americans without being held accountable by the department. These racial disparities and indications of intentional discrimination erode community trust that is a critical component of effective law enforcement.”

Those implications will no doubt be debated up through the fall election. Voters will have to choose between a sheriff accused of trying to fire a union boss in retaliation and a challenger protecting a political patron who failed to report comments about dragging a black woman from a car bumper.

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

28 Comments

  1. The fact that you picture and even name John Hirokawa in this article only proves you are as guilty of the same political impropriety as you accuse him of! Who does your boss and owner of your paper endorse? Instead of making this article an insightful delve into police misconduct, you sullied your name by making it about the race for Sheriff! If you did your research, and I’m sure you did, you would see that Laurie Smith’s tenure as Sheriff is littered with acts of bullying and retaliation making Morrissey’s claims appear legitimate. This is just an example of yellow journalism paid for by Sheriff Laurie Smith!

    • Matthew Peyton- You’ve got that right. Smith signed off on the decision to a demotion, not her opponent, so why wasn’t that mentioned in this article? If she wanted him fired so bad, why didn’t she just fire him? Trying to blame a retired employee who is running against her and wasn’t even working there at the time is typical for Smith.

      BTW- This is old news. The Murkey News wrote about this a long time ago. I guess this is the best Smith can do against her opponent. After everything I’ve been reading and hearing in the news about Smith, I wouldn’t vote for her in a million years!

    • I don’t think it’s at all fair to challenge Jennifer Wadsworth’s / SJI’s integrity. They have printed dozens of articles that can be construed as critical of Laurie Smith, and if anything Metro’s owner Dan Pulcrano tends to be an open critic of the SBLC machine that Smith is aligned with. I’m probably still voting for Hirokawa, but voters deserve to know everything about both candidates, and it is frankly disappointing to learn that Hirokawa defended such disgusting behavior. He should take this as a wake-up call to hold himself and his deputies to a higher standard.

      • Really? Where’s the article on the deputy that Laurie let quietly retire after it came to light that he was possibly trafficking at least one prostitute? I was just told by a very reliable source Jennifer was given the police report with the details. #crickets

        • First of all, your “very reliable source” misinformed you. I never heard about that case and certainly never got the police report.

          Secondly, the existence of other problems that need to be exposed doesn’t negate the need to also report on this story.

          Thanks for weighing in, though.

          • LOL – if you are so concerned about voters and the choice they have to make with the Sheriff’s election, then why haven’t you given any consideration or thought into shedding light on the victims that have come forward and have bravely shared their stories of sexual harrassment perpetrated by the CURRENT Sheriff. Yes, voters have a choice between a Sheriff who has sexually harassed officers and then tried to silence them and a challenger who has an impeccable record and has not been accused of doing any such acts. Hirokawa did not send those texts nor did he have any say in the disciplinary action due to the fact that he was retired long before this came up. He has stated in public forums that this is a fireable offense, but regardless the Sheriff and her team leaking private personnel information to the media to further her own political agenda is completely unethical. Your judgement as a reporter is laughable and I hope you decide to wake up and practice real journalism

  2. Oh wow!

    Looks like the money spent on sensitivity training in the Sheriff’s department was pretty much wasted.

  3. This “news” outlet is deplorable for running this hit piece, at Laurie’s behest no doubt, to take down a great cop, but more than that, a great person. She has been threatened by him and retaliating against him for years! When she thought he had political aspirations, he immediately became a threat, so then she searches his computer and can only come up with some Craigslist ads he looked at in relation to human trafficking and massage parlor prostitution investigations and called this looking at porn. She then strong armed her admin into demoting him. (You gotta pay to play at this agency—most of her admin do whatever she says, blindly, and have contributed money to her campaigns over the years. Everyone knows that’s how you get promoted under her. Not for good works or good policing) He becomes union president, now she’s really pissed. The deputies respect and follow Morrissey, so he continues to serve as union president. Again, pissing her off. Last two elections, this one included, the union did not endorse her. Again, his fault even though each deputy got to vote. Morrissey didn’t fill out each vote card personally. Come on! But still, his fault.

    Demotion number 2: He did not use any of the vial language in this text thread, but gets demoted for not reporting it. If that’s the standard, many people in the department should be demoted. This dark humor is typical of the industry, sadly. But no one says anything, not even top brass who are guilty of the same behavior. No one reports this language ever! Because people don’t want to be harassed for being a snitch. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. She used it as another opportunity to go after him. She would have fired him if she could! (Side note: have they made this duty to report clear office policy since all of this has happened?…No!) All the same, Morrissey would be the first to admit he’s made mistakes and is in no way perfect. Cops are people too. But has she ever owned any of the blunders her leadership at the department has caused, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. No! It’s always someone else’s fault. This is emblematic of someone who does not have integrity or of someone who is trustworthy. And what’s worse is that many of those who actually did use the vial racial slurs are still working for this department! Look into that media. I urge you. How is that fair or consistent punishment? She looks the other way if she likes you or you’ve helped her politically, and conversely, will scorch the earth you walk on if you speak against her.

    She’s a career politician and it’s time for her to go. She’s about politics and not people.

  4. This was a very lengthy article and I took the time to read the entire thing in the Metro hard copy rather than just soaking in the headline and the picture on the front page. The text messaging is terrible, and obviously wrong and unacceptable. Come on, you know when writing such texts, with today’s social media, that at some point it will get out and you will get in trouble. I am sure there are all kinds of intricacies with the ‘case’ that only an insider with the situation would know, and this article presented just what it presented, and who knows the whole story. I agree with the other commenters, that this article definitely has a slanted presentation in one direction, and this slant is to damage the public image of Undersheriff Hirokawa. I am not vested in the sheriff race and don’t care who wins or not. But, I do not appreciate this sort of reporting that blurs news and election politics with presenting selective information. I am actually more inclined to vote for Hirokawa now, knowing that somehow the Metro is being used as an extension of campaign marketing for anti-Hirokawa interests. If someone is going to the extreme of getting a reporter to write a so called ‘hit piece’, and the reporter is playing along for whatever reason – this means I probably want the person who they are trying to knock down. If the candidate was no good and not a threat, you would not need to get the paper to write a bad story about them, they would lose on their own merits. I normally look forward to the articles written in the Metro, but this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I wish the Metro would stick to clean investigative reporting and leave out these political side motives. If more articles continue like this, I am sorry to say I will need to abandon reading the Metro/San Jose Inside.

  5. Readers, here’s an article just published by The Mercury News in response to this story if you want to read unbiased reporting that objectively provides facts on this issue and more accurately presents Hirokawa’s point of view: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/06/21/racist-text-scandal-revived-in-backdrop-of-bitter-sheriff-race/

    Otherwise, continue to let Jennifer Wadsworth manipulate and mislead you since she’s in Laurie Smith’s back pocket of tools for her election. Your choice.

  6. This article exposes the true content of some seriously disturbing messaging between people who are in law enforcement and who are supposed to be above racism in their daily lives. Truly shameful.

    Below is the content of an email Don Morrissey sent out to DSA members trying to explain away his deplorable, obvious racist behavior. It is truly sad to know he is still not only a part of our local law enforcement, but the president of the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association representing that department’s officers.

    Dear DSA Member,

    For the fifth time, the Sheriff is attacking me about my failure to report racist and sexist text messages that Correctional Deputies were exchanging back in 2014 and 2015. I have now seen all the texts, and they are vile. At the time, the texts were all sent on personal cell phones and they were almost all sent Off Duty. As was testified to, no employee had ever before reported off duty speech by a coworker.

    At a time when you would expect a candidate for sheriff to be putting forth a vision for the Sheriff’s Office in 2019 through 2023, Laurie Smith has nothing to offer but to resurrect a series of text messages sent in 2014 through 2015 that I have previously strongly condemned and reflected on soberly with regret and motivation to learn from.

    Make no mistake, with the benefit of hindsight, and having seen my family suffer through five rounds of these attacks, as well as having lost my Sgt. stripes – I regret that I received those texts, read, unread, benign and repulsive.

    Please be aware that former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, an African American with ample law enforcement experience, cleared me of any wrongdoing with respect to any text message that I SENT.

    I was demoted because I did not report on others. The County believes that General Order 11.00 requires all of you to report any “offensive” Off-Duty speech to co-workers. It does not distinguish between the context; heavy sarcasm, edgy, disgusting humor, or vile invective. Without assessment and context, just dispositions are even more at risk for everyone.

    Yet, as Captain Doty testified under penalty of perjury, no one in this Department had, before me, EVER been disciplined for failing to report any off-duty speech by any other employee. Moreover, Doty testified that no one has EVER reported any off-duty speech by a co-worker. I was demoted for failing to be the first person to report on the off-duty speech of others.

    There were thousands of texts. Most were benign. Many were just plain stupid. A dozen or so strings were vile, racist, and sexist. I was mocked, too, as a “Queer Brit” and a “Portuguese Sausage Lover.” I took none of these taunts seriously, and have no recollection of seeing many of the texts. Often, if I look at my phone and see a string of twenty missed texts, I will review a few, to get a flavor of the subject matter being discussed, and then decide whether I need to review all of the other texts in the string or disregard them. I’m sure many of you do this, too. Of the texts in question, many I chose to disregard. My focus was on my family, which was going through some issues, and on representing you, the members. Those were my priorities, not the texts.

    I am asking the court to review the arbitrator’s award, because I believe the decision raises privacy concerns; not just mine, but ultimately yours, too. If the Sheriff’s Office can invade areas of your privacy, which are completely disconnected from how you conduct yourself at work, your private actions are no longer private.

    Bear in mind that an appellate court already ruled that all of the participants who sent and received texts had an expectation of privacy in those communications. That being so, it raises an important question of the power of General Order 11.00 as weighed against your expectation of privacy.

    I encourage any of you with any concerns whatsoever about any of the above or about the media reports to contact me, personally.

    Your President.
    Don Morrissey

    • Concerned Citizen- Let’s not get all self righteous here. None of us are perfect and if you say you are, you’re lying. All of us hold some kind of bias, bigotry, or prejudice against someone.

      I disagree with you about Morrissey’s letter. I think the guy stood up and owned his crap, unlike Smith who sets people up to take the blame for her screw ups. You should sit down and watch the stunts she pulled at the Blue Ribbon Commission. Read the reports on how bad she’s run the jails, how she blamed the polices for the problems, and just about everyone and everything else. If the policies aren’t clear, and there isn’t any training on how to enforce them, then how in the hey does she expect people to know what they are supposed to do? My question is, where is she? Does she ever walk through the jails on a regular basis, or only for a photo, media op?

      Her viscous, public attacks on Judge Cordell, after the Judge came forward about Smith’s actions, during a private meeting that Smith asked for, blew my mind. My understanding of what went on during that meeting was that Smith tried to show her confidential personnel files. WOW! Talk about illegal. To her credit, Judge Cordell gave a legal deposition to that fact.

      Anyway, in my opinion, the Metro ignored many main stream media reports on Smith’s rotten actions but the voters didn’t. With the vote splitters gone now, I think Smith must be sweating bullets. That’s why we’ll be seeing some really outrageous things like this coming out of her camp. I just hope she remembers that that is a sword that cuts both ways.

      More and more law enforcement members under her are coming forward and telling the truth about her because they’re tired of her abuse. And the guys who ran against her know things about her, and will probably endorse John. Their votes combined with John’s will take her down in Nov.

      • How is this about the sheriff’s race and not about the racism displayed by a deputy? I think your reply missed the point. Whoever you are, it is apparent that you must either work at the Sheriff’s Department and are in belief this behavior is acceptable or you are a friend of this racist. Open your eyes. This behavior has no place in law enforcement. This deputy should have been fired.

        • Concerned Citizen- LOL! I didn’t miss the point that the Metro and SJI have endorsed Smith in every election she’s been in and posts articles that deflect the many rotten practices of the Sheriff during election time. Morrissey is being used as a scapegoat for Smith to get to John Hirokawa, but you’re too busy defending Smith to see anything else.
          I don’t work at the Sheriff’s Office or in Corrections, under Amy Le the recently promoted henchmen of Smith. The Correction’s Union are giving Smith tons of money, since you obviously don’t know what you are talking about.
          Smith is the one who needs to be fired. She’s lost the support of every LE agency. Wake up a smell the coffee will yah?

    • Concerned Citizen— You are a coward! In no way does Morrissey’s email condone or justify what occurred. For you to have that email, you must be part of the Sheriff’s Office and specifically part of Sheriff Smith’s boot licking squad of flunkies! You hide behind a moniker calling yourself a “Concerned Citizen.” You should be ashamed of yourself. That office is crumbling from within all thanks to the poor choice in leadership! The poorest of which is the County’s choice in sheriff. I am in no way perfect, but I am proud of my work within that department and stand behind my name. Go crawl back under Laurie’s desk where you belong!!!

      • Mr. Peyton,

        My neighbor works for the Sheriff’s Department. She shared that email with me after I went over to talk about this article. I am appalled by your comments. I was surprised to learn you are a deputy sheriff. My neighbor also told me you did something wrong at work and are not currently working. As you clearly support a racist, I am now wondering if your conduct is related. What a shame our city has people of this caliber working to protect us. I am glad you can not learn my identity. Now I’m afraid someone with so much hatred like you might show up at my door in white sheets. Shameful.

        • @CONCERNED CITIZEN- What’s shameful is that you would broadcast Deputy Peyton’s personal business and sully a reputation on this public platform without any base of knowledge. To imply he may be a racist and go so far as to include the KKK when you don’t even know this person. Disgraceful. Do us all a favor a keep your neighborhood gossip to yourself!

        • Mr. “Citizen”
          First of all, your “neighbor” works for the Sheriff’s Office??? No one is buying that! Second, you are actually correct about one thing. I am not currently working. You can see my story here:

          https://www.google.com/amp/abc7news.com/amp/exclusive-santa-clara-co-sheriff-faces-questions-about-delayed-arrest-of-child-molester/3430781/

          If standing up to my boss because they put politics over the safety of the public is “wrong” than I’m very proud to not to be working there at the moment. How dare you even imply I could be a racist. Know facts before spewing your brand of hatred.

  7. Okay, let’s set the record straight. The charge that Sheriff Smith resurrected this story and supplied it to us is pure BS. It got into our hands because Morrissey’s lawyers incompetently attached the arbitrator’s decision to his petition to appeal the outcome and didn’t bother to place it under seal. End of story.

    We got the papers from the court, through our own initiative. Just that simple. And we ran it not to advance anyone’s agenda or campaign, but because the public deserves to know about institutionalized racism/misogyny/homophobia in law enforcement and the higher-ups who allow it to occur. People who allow socially destructive behavior to continue are as guilty as the perpetrators—because they should know better and are in a position to stop it.

    • Dear Editor,
      Okay, so you say, “but because the public deserves to know about institutionalized racism/misogyny/homophobia in law enforcement and the higher-ups who allow it to occur.” Now tell us how many times your paper has endorsed Smith, how long have you been friends with Smith, and why you have ignored major news stories about Smith’s rotten actions and behaviors?

      And while you’re at it, why don’t you tell us who tipped you off to this filing to vacate this decision?

    • Sure – except John Hirokawa was in no position to have a say in the deciplinary action, which you strongly imply that he somehow did even though he was retired – and you place virtually no blame on the one who is actually in charge and could have fired him, the Sheriff. Your article fails to mention that Hirokawa wasn’t privy to have all of the information back in 2016 to make a conclusive judgment on what should have been done with Morrissey because HE WAS RETIRED. It is very clear from even how this article is written that you are not objectively reporting on this issue and do in fact have a political agenda. Unless your entire outlet is an editorial? Also, if your news team cared so much about destructive behaviors – why don’t you report on Laurie Smith’s victims of sexual harassment rather than try to help her silence them.

  8. “Retired U.S. Army major and combat veteran Joe LaJeunesse, a court bailiff who ran against Smith in the primary, echoed Smith’s thoughts on the subject.“Anyone guilty of such actions, whether on- or off-duty, would have and should have been discharged,” he said upon learning of the texts.”

    You mean the same Joe LaJeunesse who is pissed at the DSA President and membership who refused to endorse him because he isn’t qualified to be Sheriff, and the same guy who flooded Face Book with distorted information, outright lies, and some of the most disgusting, vengeful posts I’ve ever read? Yeah, like I’d ever believe anything he’s ever said. LOL!

    I’ve got to tell you guys, I find it hypocritical, and laughable that Smith is acting outraged by any of this. The way she acts and talks to people she is pissed at puts a whole new meaning to the words bully, and crazy. I heard her tear one of her opponent’s, Martin Monica, a new butt in the hallway of the County building because he had a letter of recommendation that she wrote for him on his literature table. Man! She was yelling, screaming, red faced, got up in his face, and threatening him not to hand it out. I could never work for a monster like that, never mind vote for one.

    I agree with SCC Resident’s post. That factual account of this text thing puts things in perspective. These texts are vile and make me sick, but I also have to wonder, who here can deny saying something that the PC Police would find offensive? Work and our private life aren’t the same thing in my opinion. We all deserve privacy, even cops.

  9. So editor, what do you say about the multitude of accusations against the Sheriff herself? Can we expect you to do an “investigative” piece on that? We know it’s not a problem of resurrecting a story the murky news already did. And amazing how quick you found the attorney’s filing. How soon after it’s filing did you run with it? Do you have someone at the court house daily? I would just like to know how that works. The public deserves to know don’t they? And on that subject matter, perhaps the public ought to know the extent of your relationship or previous contacts with Laurie Smith, if any. Please let us know.

    And yes there is an institutionalized problem in the law enforcement industry, but Don Morrissey is absolutely not a racist! You obviously don’t know this man on a personal level. Or understand the personal trauma he was enduring at the time he was apart of the text group. He’s loved and respected by many, and for good reason. But is he perfect, absolutely not! And he’ll be the first to admit that. But you all must live in glass houses, throwing these stones. Furthermore, you’ve obviously never been a part of an annoying text group, with numerous contacts, where people just keep going and going and you choose just to ignore or awkwardly chime in with a “hahaha” because you don’t know what else to say to the moronic crap. It would have been difficult to snitch, but obviously the right thing to do here. people say pretty horrible stuff at that department all the time, laugh it off as a joke to make it ok, and no one ever says anything! No body wants a snitch for a beat partner. And yes, this industry standard is deplorable, but this man does not deserve to be the first and only to be punished for failing to report. Please look at what the department has done to make this duty clear to all since. Spoiler alert, they haven’t.

  10. Mr Peyton was caught illegally recording his superiors in order to become a whistle blower due to their questionably ethical behavior which is condoned by Laurie Smith. Do with that what you may, but cap your ignorance and one sided opinion before you go accusing those you don’t know of anything.

    Funny your knowledgeable friend didn’t mention that part. Funny you didn’t see any stories from SJI and Wadsworth on that, huh?

  11. This is all a crock of crap. A huge Rich Robinson smoke screen. If Smith can get Morissey out as DSA President, she can replace him with someone she wants, just like she did with the Custody Peace Officer’s Association’s Amy Lee. Anyone with half of brain can see right through this political game.

  12. Dear Editor,
    Okay, so you say, “but because the public deserves to know about institutionalized racism/misogyny/homophobia in law enforcement and the higher-ups who allow it to occur.” Now tell us how many times your paper has endorsed Smith, how long have you been friends with Smith, and why you have ignored major news stories about Smith’s rotten actions and behaviors?

    And while you’re at it, why don’t you tell us who tipped you off to this filing to vacate this decision?

    I’m still waiting for an answer….. Curious minds want to know. We all have a right to know your ties to Smith.

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