Chris Stampolis—a perennial political candidate whose antics have inspired TMZ headlines and stay-away orders from colleagues—was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of making death threats and using his car as a deadly weapon.
Police booked the 53-year-old ex-Santa Clara Unified trustee Monday on two felony counts related to a previously unpublicized incident in which he allegedly threatened to kill a woman before hitting her with his 2011 bronze Buick SUV.
Authorities issued a $50,000 warrant just a couple months after the Jan. 8, 2019, clash. Why they took so long to act on it is unclear.
Santa Clara PD Capt. Wahid Kazem said his agency only found out about the case a few days ago when a “citizen informant” tipped them off. His officers finally caught up to Stampolis in Sunnyvale for something that happened a year prior in Morgan Hill.
According to reports by the Morgan Hill Police Department, Stampolis was moonlighting as an Uber driver in January 2019 when a San Jose cop-turned-private eye, Todd Gonzalez Lobdell, left a wallet and badge in the back seat of his car. Five days later, Lobdell’s domestic partner, local boutique owner Belinda Ettelbrick, arranged to meet Stampolis at Noah’s Bar in Morgan Hill to recover the wallet.
When Ettelbrick arrived, however, she said Stampolis refused to give her the wallet unless she signed some kind of papers. She said he then went back to the car before popping out again to ask, “Where’s the money?”
According to Ettelbrick, Stampolis claimed he made a deal with Lobdell to return his property for a kind of finder’s fee. Ettelbrick said she heard of no such arrangement and demanded the wallet. Stampolis allegedly refused and told her to back away—or else.
“Stampolis turns around and gets close to Ettelbrick’s case and tells her that she can’t get near her or he was going to kill her,” according to the victim’s narrative as documented by the Morgan Hill Police Department.
When she asked again, she said he repeated his warning.
Ettelbrick told Stampolis she’d call the cops if he left with the wallet and badge. He told her to go right ahead, so she did. When a dispatcher asked for the SUV’s license plate number, police say Ettelbrick “jumps in front of the vehicle,” which struck her left leg.
Two people witnessed the encounter. Namely, Michael Walker, a bystander with a law enforcement background, and Annette Buttner—Stampolis’ paramour and a habitual newsmaker in her own right. When police asked if Stampolis struck the woman, Buttner, who recorded the scene on her cell phone, denied it. Instead, she echoed her beau’s version of events, saying Ettelbrick blocked their departure.
Police say Stampolis accused Ettelbrick of stepping in front of his moving vehicle—twice. They said he wanted to “press false imprisonment charges” against her because of it, for “restricting his movement from leaving.”
Stampolis reportedly defended his actions by saying he didn’t feel comfortable leaving Lobdell’s wallet with anyone other than the man himself, or the folks at Uber’s San Jose office. Morgan Hill police say they offered to take the wallet off his hands, but that he refused. The cops summoned a sergeant to the scene who managed to persuade Stampolis to leave the wallet at the station.
Even though a woman had just accused him of assaulting her with his car, the police allowed Stampolis to drive himself to the station, where officers say he “demanded a property receipt.” Police asked for his ID in exchange, but he reportedly refused to comply and showed himself out.
Ettelbrick—who said she still limps from injuries sustained by the SUV hit, which left her right knee inflamed and her muscles “messed up”—seemed surprised to hear that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office even filed charges.
“Nobody’s told me anything,” she told San Jose Inside when reached by phone Thursday. “I still can’t get over the fact that those Morgan Hill officers let him walk out of the station after he tried to kill me.”
Stampolis—who’s out on supervised release of his own recognizance and due in court Feb. 4—denied any wrongdoing. He said he has a 13-minute video of the encounter that disputes Ettelbrick’s claim to victimhood and offered to make it public if he gets the go-ahead from his attorney. “The video absolutely, without question, refutes any concept that I hit this person,” he insisted.
In a follow-up email, Stampolis forwarded correspondence from his insurance provider, which he said reviewed the footage and deemed him “not responsible/at fault for anything having to do with this ‘alleged incident.’”
Though he said the overall experience was a bummer, Stampolis made a point of commending Santa Clara police for being “very professional” when arresting him. (He was far less charmed by the Santa Clara County Main Jail, which he called surprisingly filthy, rife with gang graffiti and bereft of soap.)
The longtime Santa Claran and former Democratic Party superdelegate said he has no idea why authorities detained him so long after his 2019 dispute, but found the timing a little fishy. He suggested that it might have something to do with the 25th Assembly District race, in which his ex-wife, Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Anna Song, is running in a crowded field to succeed Kansen Chu.
Stampolis declined to elaborate on those suspicions.
“I think we’re all used to weird things happening during political season,” he said cryptically. “And I’m not—how should I say this?—I’m not what you’d call ‘low profile.’”