There are different stories about what led to the Casino Night fight involving the spouse of Assemblywoman Nora Campos. While not everyone agrees about how it started, or who hit who, we can say one thing with certainty:
Nora Campos’ husband, Neil Struthers, definitely got kicked in the junk.
Or maybe we should say the groin.
Or “in the balls,” as Nora Campos put it in a story by the Mercury News, which has since been updated to note Struthers was merely kicked “below the belt.”
But let’s face facts: Struthers definitely got kicked in the balls.
Perhaps a more important issue is whether Struthers deserved to get kicked in the balls, and whether or not it was a pre-meditated kick in the balls.
According to the man who kicked Struthers in the balls, the answer is: yes, Struthers most certainly did deserve to get kicked in the balls, and, no, it was not planned.
Enrique Arguello, business manager for laborers union Local 270, returned a call requesting comment Wednesday evening and explained his side of the story.
Struthers not only called him a “faggot,” Arguello says, but also nearly punched his wife, which is why Struthers got kicked in the balls. The argument here is that the ball kicking was self-defense.
Let’s start from the beginning.
It was a Friday night at the Fairmont Hotel, and the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council (SCBTC) was hosting its annual Casino Night. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
Struthers was chopping it up with an old high school chum who is also is part of Local 270, Arguello says, and during this time Struthers said he would like to fight Arguello. He apparently said this within earshot of Arguello, who was sitting at a table with his wife. Struthers then approached the table and allegedly made an inappropriate hand gesture—finger in hole stuff—in reference to a picture he saw of Arguello and Omar Torres, an openly gay man who works in the office of Magdalena Carrasco. Struthers wanted to know if the two had a sexual relationship and how it worked, before allegedly calling Arguello a “faggot.”
(Background: Struthers probably isn’t fond of Torres because the latter’s boss, Magdalena Carrasco, defeated Xavier Campos, Struther’s brother-in-law, in a 2014 election rematch. Torres previously worked for Xavier Campos in the 2010 race. The reason for the rematch is Xavier Campos stole the 2010 election by 20 votes thanks to a fraudulent mailer produced by family friend George Shirakawa Jr. Arguello’s union supported Carrasco’s candidacy in 2014, and there’s a belief that Local 270 swayed a vote that led to Struthers’ resignation from the SCBTC. Whew! Got all that?)
Following the homophobic slurs, Arguello says, he and his wife got up to leave, but Struthers wasn’t done.
“When I was walking away he threw the first punch at me,” Arguello says. “He hit me on my shoulder and pulled me from my suit. He told me, ‘Come outside and I’ll kick your ass.’ My wife tried to separate us, standing in front of me. Then he tried to hit me over my wife, and he hit her instead of me.”
And that’s when Arguello kicked Struthers in the balls.
The Merc’s story includes a police report from May 2, a few days after the April 29 event, in which a man named “Pablo” is blamed for kicking Struthers in the balls. This person is believed to be Pablo Sencion, an executive board-field representative for Local 270.
Arguello said that Sencion may have been part of the scuffle—a lot of people rushed in fast—but he does not believe Sencion was the person who kicked Struthers in the balls. That’s because Arguello admitted he was the one who kicked Struthers in the balls.
“I’m pretty sure he was drunk,” Arguello says. “Even after everyone separated us he threw beer over everyone and my wife. He was holding a Corona in his hand the moment he approached me.”
Struthers provided a statement to the Merc denying he started the fight. He also noted that he planned to sue Arguello for libel and slander. When told this Wednesday evening, Arguello said he is considering his own lawsuit against Struthers.
Arguello also said there were plenty of witnesses who heard Struthers’ comments, inlcuding Jerry Zamora, business manager for the cement masons union Local 400.
A message requesting an interview with Zamora has yet to be returned. Struthers has not responded to multiple calls.
As if this story couldn’t get any stranger, Nora Campos released a YouTube video on Wednesday accusing state Senate President Kevin de León and Senator Jim Beall, who she is challenging in the June primary, of telling Arguello and his “thugs” to beat up her husband.
"Last week, [Arguello] and his gang of supporters violently attacked my husband simply for being married to me," Campos said.
Requests for comment from de León and Beall were not immediately returned.
Reading prepared statements in her Assembly office, Campos goes on to say that two Local 270 “henchmen” were “intercepted” by California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers while en route to break into Campos and Struthers’ home.
She then challenged de León and Beall: “Senators, you will conveniently plead the Fifth today, however, you know very well that Mr. Arguello has a long track record of receiving orders and support from the both of you.”
The wording of that statement is fairly incredible.
In 2013, Nora Campos’ own brother, Xavier, then a sitting San Jose councilman, invoked the Fifth when testifying before a grand jury about the stolen election of 2010.
In a statement sent out Thursday afternoon by Local 270, Arguello called Nora Campos’ remarks “not only a distortion of the facts, but completely and intentionally false.”
He added: “This abuse of her elected office is shameful. Like her husband Neil Struthers, Ms. Campos is demonstrating a pattern of threatening and attacking those who do not share their views. She is using the power and connections of her elected office to bully her constituents and to cover up for her husband's misconduct—namely, repeatedly and publicly threatening me with physical harm, publicly insulting me with ethnic and homophobic slurs, and physically assaulting both my wife and me at a public gathering with numerous witnesses present.”
There’s a lot going on here, but one thing is certain: Neil Struthers definitely got kicked in the balls.