DA Declines to File Charges Against Activist Held on Extraordinary $500,000 Bail

Santa Clara County prosecutors have declined to file charges against an activist held on a staggering $500,000 bail for a single count of felony vandalism—at least for now. That means 23-year-old Hailey Scimone should walk free before the end of the day.

Scimone could still face charges if San Jose police come up with more evidence, according to District Attorney’s Office spokesman Sean Webby.

The case made headlines because of the extraordinarily high bail set by Judge Paul Bernal, who provided no public justification for setting it 50 times beyond what’s prescribed for such crimes. It also stood out because of the kind of warrant the San Jose Police Department used to arrest Scimone on suspicion of felony vandalism.

It took three days behind bars before Scimone got a copy of the warrant police used to justify the arrest. What it showed is that San Jose police got Judge Bernal to sign off on the warrant on Sept. 28—and then waited five days to serve it.

When cops finally showed up to a Santa Clara home around 10pm on Saturday to take Scimone into custody, they reportedly never provided a copy of the warrant nor the specific criminal incident alleged.

The Hon. Paul Bernal.

Instead, Scimone had to wait until Monday to find out—by way of a SJPD press release—that authorities suspected them of vandalizing Mayor Sam Liccardo’s home on Aug. 28 as part of a protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake.

The same media bulletin accused two of their colleagues from local activist group HERO Tent of defacing San Jose’s controversial Thomas Fallon statue after a Sept. 23 march demanding justice for Breonna Taylor.

Bernal—who has held himself out as a friend of the Liccardo family and volunteers as San Jose’s official historian—set Scimone’s bail at $500,000 for a crime with a $10,000 bail schedule and no bail since the courts began waiving it for non-violent crimes during the pandemic.

For context, $500,000 is the bail schedule associated with crimes such as human trafficking, assaulting police with a machine gun or semiautomatic weapon and engaging in three or more acts of pedophilia.

It’s unclear whether police asked for the $500,000 bail or whether Bernal determined that the appropriate amount. San Jose PD demurred when asked and Bernal has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Even Liccardo found the bail amount staggering. On Monday, he said: “In my days as a prosecutor, I saw much lower bail amounts set on people charged with violent assault.”

When asked for additional comment today after the name of the judge came to light, the mayor replied: “As I said yesterday, beyond knowing that an arrest had been made, I didn’t know any of the details either of the arrest or of the defendant until I read about it in the media. In the last 24 hours, I’ve learned that Judge Bernal set the bail in this case, but I have not communicated in any way with either Judge Bernal nor anyone else at the courthouse for several months prior to this incident, not has anyone communicated with anyone else at the courthouse about the case at my direction or on my behalf.”

A copy of Bernal’s Sept. 28 warrant didn’t make it to the desk of Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Carson White, Scimone’s lawyer, until Tuesday morning. That’s because police used a Ramey warrant, which allows them to make an arrest before the District Attorney’s Office even has a chance to review the case.

White, who’s part of a pre-arraignment representation team that filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging Scimone’s incarceration, says the fact that San Jose PD waited nearly a week after obtaining the warrant to serve it on a weekend is troubling.

Scimone’s defense lawyers argue that police served the warrant on a weekend to subject their client to the maximum amount of pre-arraignment jail time. By getting booked on a Saturday, Scimone faced the prospect of waiting 96 hours before seeing a judge.

“This all but confirms our suspicions,” she tells San Jose Inside, “that Hailey’s arrest on this bail amount was strategically orchestrated to ensure they spent the most time possible in pre-arraignment custody without access to an attorney or the ability to go before a judge and request their release.”

Carlie Ware, who leads the pre-arraignment representation unit, says Scimone’s arrest offers a rare glimpse at a type of warrant normally shielded from public view.

“We’re fortunate to be witnessing something that was designed to be kept secret," she says. “A Ramey warrant is designed to exclude attorneys and any accountability.”

The only other time Ware says she’s seen a Ramey warrant used was last year in a case against someone accused of being an accomplice to a crime. White says she believes police use them at times to pressure people into becoming informants.

Ware notes that in Scimone’s case, police could have called them in for questioning anytime in the past month since the alleged vandalism at the mayor’s house. Instead, they chose to interrogate Scimone in jail despite lacking enough evidence to convince prosecutors to file a charge.

“The only thing they got out of this was jail time,” Ware says.

SJPD spokesman Sgt. Christian Camarillo says he would have to get more information before he could comment on why his agency waited five days to serve the warrant.

Bernal, a former prosecutor who once worked alongside Liccardo at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, has served as a jurist since Gov. Gray Davis appointed him to the bench in 2000. His current term ends in 2025.

Grace Hase also contributed to this report.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

18 Comments

  1. I called the Santa Clara Hall of Justice at 408-808-6600 and left a VM expressing my outrage at this egregious bail amount. Brock Turner’s bail was set at $150,000. Let that sink in. Please call for Ms. Scimone.

  2. > I called the Santa Clara Hall of Justice at 408-808-6600 and left a VM expressing my outrage at this egregious bail amount.

    Megan:

    As a result of your suggestion, I called the Santa Clara Hall of Justice and told them to ignore your voice mail.

    I told them you were just angry and unhinged because of the coronavirus lockdown.

  3. Maybe people shouldn’t vandalize a public officials house, and enter his/her property – setting a dangerous tone that such behavior, which could lead to a violent incident, is somehow ok. Maybe they should’ve went home after the protest, and made better life choices. Maybe it makes sense for the criminal justice system to protect elected officials from mobs showing up on their front porch with spray cans, and other objects…threatening them, and their property. Maybe criminals should take personal accountability, and use their time more wisely.

  4. IF SJPD was wrong in the warrant they used and the manner of the arrest, does that mean Hailey is any less of suspected criminal, or deserves any less punishment and shame if convicted?

  5. All valid points. But that doesn’t excuse a cop and a judge bending and twisting the law in a way that violates a person’s rights. Them today, you tomorrow with even more dubious legal reasoning.

  6. Agreed, but we only know a small piece of the story and the author has shown a pattern of being Anit-Police, which brings pretty much everything about the story into question. Hence my previous question.

  7. What amount of ruinous pampering and educational failure allows people who cheer the vandalism of a private home and the disruption of an entire neighborhood to think themselves entitled to mount the high ground of human rights? Like him or not, a connection between the mayor (and his neighbors) to the Jacob Blake shooting can only be imprinted in an individual in one of two ways: through political manipulation of the stupid or the capricious processes of mental derangement.

    Please, check the appropriate box and then seek help.

  8. No one is justifying vandalism, but the $500k is just ridiculous! As Megan pointed out Turner got $150k. Thus, sexually assaulting an unconscious person deserves a lesser punishment than vandalizing the home of the want to be king of San Jose Sammy? BS!

  9. Given that our DA has greater concern for a law -breaking “activist” than a duly elected official and the security of his home, it comes as no surprise that the activist receives priority over an elective official. Until there is a measurable consequence for flouting our laws of personal safety, there will be no (necessary) change in behaviors. I have No sympathy for those who purposely put officials and citizens in danger to further their perceived view of contemporary correctness.

  10. So, this judge set a ludicrously high bail amount for someone who committed a crime against a powerful politician he and his family have close personal ties to. How could he have not seen this as, at the very least, presenting the appearance of a conflict of interest, if not a full-blown partial judgement motivated by personal relationships?

  11. It wasn’t just vandalism. Burning anything on someone else’s property, even a flag, is an arson attempt. The amount of bail for an arson isn’t the same as vandalism.

  12. @Stating The Obvious

    The filth responsible for vandalizing the mayor’s home did so because they felt empowered by the lawlessness of others to do whatever they wanted against whomever they chose, no matter how innocent the victims. They selected the mayor’s home to demonstrate their impunity, to blatantly serve notice to every resident of this city of their unbridled power. In doing so they distinguished themselves from common lawbreakers who avoid detection and have no interest in spreading terror.

    As a result of these brazen tactics a resident or neighborhood facing such an assault is confronted with a host of unknowns, about the mob’s intent, the danger of property damage, the risk of injury or even death. Let us not forget that these mobs have attracted lunatics and serial offenders who’ve thrown firebombs, wielded eye-damaging weapons, launched deadly projectiles, and discharged firearms as they served notice of their power and fearlessness.

    If high bail will help keep these offenders out of my city, my neighborhood, and my front yard, then I’m all for it. Better that lawbreakers be inconvenienced for their behavior than some law-abiding citizen be put in a situation so difficult and dangerous that there exists no official recommendations for how to respond, other than surrender your safety and that of your family to the whims of the mob.

  13. Perhaps a lawyer on this thread can help answer a couple of questions, because it seems to me we are witnessing a game of chicken between SJPD and the DA’s office. 1.) Can the DA refuse to charge because of the bail amount?
    2.) Why didn’t SJPD confer with DA before the arrest?
    3.) (probably most important) Has the DA actually charged *anybody* with any crimes related to the protests that went violent over the summer?

  14. PHU TAN ELLI : Talk about jumping to conclusions. Imputing motive to criminals is some magical logic. Then to extrapolate the singular intent of an entire mob takes jumping to conclusions into realm of the delusional. Excessive bail is unconstitutional. If violating the constitutional rights of others keeps you safe, I guess you thinks that is ok. Just remember, people died for liberty, not safety. So, as far as the constitution is concerned, the right to freedom of expression (stated as speech, but defined by the supreme court to mean “speech” includes expression). That expression includes protesting, burning flags, hanging effigies, and lots of other acts that mere statutes seek to prohibit. Such statutes bow as inferior to the constitution. So, “get off my lawn” sentiment is not the law. The City of San Jose dropped ALL citations for breaking their ill-conceived curfew–the one the Mayor himself broke while exercising on his bike. As far as keeping the “undesirables” out of “your town, your neighborhood, and your lawn” well the freedom of movement is a fundamental right. So, again, good luck with that fanciful interpretation of the law.

  15. First, check your dictionary for the meaning of extrapolation.
    Second, you apparently are not familiar with the reasoning process that allows facts to produce logical (there’s that word again) conclusions. Here’s how it works.
    – A mob forms in protest of a police shooting that occurred elsewhere (Kenosha, Wi.).
    – They choose as their target a private home owned by neither a representative of law enforcement or the city of Kenosha.
    – The target, the mayor’s home, is relevant only for its publicity value.
    – The mob’s behavior consists of three components: a political message already in the headlines, an implied threat of violence (communicated by mob size, unnerving shouted demands, inescapability), and boldly destructive acts (trespassing, vandalism).
    – Videos of the riot were tolerated, recorded, and readily distributed.
    – As could be anticipated, news coverage of the riot was reported throughout the Bay Area, none of it linking the mayor or his neighbors to the issue, but all of it revealing the ugly and threatening potential of the protesters.
    Add it all up and it constitutes strong support for the conclusion that the rioters’ intent was to publicize its willingness to intimidate the innocent and brazenly break the law.

    Third, you claim “excessive bail is unconstitutional,” but where in the Constitution is excessive defined? A bail amount can be declared unconstitutional by a court, but that is far different from what you’re claiming (as what can be declared excessive by one court can be declared reasonable by another).

    Fourth, you claim “people died for liberty, not safety.” That might make for a splendid bumper sticker but in the real world, wherever there is no safety there is no liberty (just as the idiots in Seattle’s little anarchist compound discovered).

    Fifth, in your desperation to justify your disagreement with me you cite flag burning and other acts that have nothing at all to do with the criminal acts committed at the mayor’s home.

  16. The parent(s) of this 23-year-old child failed in what should have been their primary mission of raising a contributing member of society. Now it falls to the justice system to do what her parents didn’t. Except when the justice system is headed by District Attorneys like Jeff Rosen and Chesa Boudin who have no interest in punishing criminals anymore. So the 23-year-old and her acolytes will probably show up at Judge Bernal’s house next to do the only thing they’re good at — destroy. Thank their parent(s).

  17. Wow! Once again, City Leaders, including the Supreme Court and the obvious -SJPD had to be sneaky, control freaks manipulating our ‘so-called’ justice system. Try spending a night in jail and see how you feel when your legal rights to freedom are cynically twisted in a legal system in which we [supposedly] trust. I hope SJPD & Mr. Honorable felt the stinging because they got burned!!!! That’s ridiculous to set this bail amount. I’m embarrassed for ya’all.

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