"Berkeley at its Best!"
Tom's 2002 campaign slogan
BATES APOLOGIZES TO DAILY CAL FOR ROLE IN PRE-ELECTION DAY THEFT
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has admitted responsibility for stealing and trashing about 1000 copies of The Daily Californian that carried the student newspapers endorsement of his opponent police said yesterday. Bates, who earlier denied stealing the newspapers to the Daily Cal released a statement yesterday apologizing for his involvement in the theft.
"There is no question that tossing newspapers is absolutely inappropriate and unacceptable,” Bates stated. "I apologize on behalf of myself and my supporters for our involvement in this activity."
"I think we all agree that campaigns must be about furthering the free exchange of ideas. An effort to impede this free exchange is a great disservice to The Daily Californian and the people of Berkeley." the mayor stated. Bates declined to Comment further.
The Nov. 4 issue police say Bates stole contained the Daily Cal’s endorsement of then Mayor Shirley Dean. Ninety percent of the newspapers were recovered front trash cans on Sproul Plaza. Several students told police they saw Bates trash the papers. When asked by a Daily Cal reporter Nov. 4 if he stole the papers. Bates said. "No.”
UC police concluded its investigation last week and recommended to the Alameda County District Attorney that Bates be charged with petty theft. No other suspects have been named.
“Bates accepted responsibility for the whole thing.” said UC police Capt. Bill Cooper. "(But) we don't specifically have a statement saving. "I did it."'
Daily Cal Editor in Chief Rong-Gong Lin, II. condemned Bates for his actions.
"It's especially ironic he would have thrown these Daily Cals away just a few feet away from the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement." Lin said.
Bates admitted his involvement in the thefts to his political allies last week.
"He told me, and he feels terrible about it, and he's embarrassed.” said Councilmember Dona Spring. Spring said she believed Bates was overwhelmed by the stress of the campaign. "He was very exhausted from the election, getting very little sleep. and he just blew it." Spring said. “He let his emotions take over."
Bates admission already had some questioning his ability to lead, most notably former Mayor Shirley Dean, the eight-year incumbent who lost the race to Bates.
"If the evidence is that he actually did this, I would be one of those calling for his resignation." Dean said.
Were Bates to resign. the city would have to call a special mayoral election to determine his successor. If there was another election. Dean said she would run again.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to Plead Guilty to Theft
Mayor Agrees to Support Legislation Making Newspaper Theft Illegal
Paul Thornton, Daily Californian, December 12, 2002
The Alameda County District Attorney charged Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates Thursday with theft for stealing 1,000 copies of the Nov. 4 edition of The Daily Californian.
In a statement to the Daily Cal, Bates said he will plead guilty to the infraction charge, and will pay the $250 fine. The copies that Bates has admitted to stealing included the endorsement of his opponent in the November election, then-Mayor Shirley Dean.
In addition to the fine, Bates has made arrangements with the Daily Cal to pay a restitution of $500 to cover the cost of the trashed Nov. 4 Daily Cals.
"I feel terrible about my actions, and I feel this is a step toward restitution with the Daily Cal," Bates said.
Furthermore, Bates said he plans to speak to Berkeley public school students to help them understand that "impulsive actions have lasting consequences that can profoundly affect the rest of their lives."
"I want to help students understand the importance of their decisions, and that they are responsible for their actions," Bates said in a statement Thursday.
Daily Cal editor in chief Rong-Gong Lin, II said he would rather have seen Bates charged with a misdemeanor for a "very serious crime." But he said the fact that Bates was charged for stealing free newspapers was important, because past thefts of Daily Cals have not resulted in prosecution.
In response to the recent theft and a request by Lin, Bates agreed to propose a city ordinance and support state legislation specifically making the theft of free newspapers a crime.
While Lin said the successful investigation and prosecution in this case is an important step for free newspapers, publishers still have a very hard time persuading authorities in other jurisdictions that stealing free newspapers is a crime because the law is not specific enough.
"If we can codify this ... then free speech will be all the more preserved," Lin said.
Bates said there needs to be clarification about whether stealing free newspapers is a crime, which would be emphasized with this legislation.
"The Daily Cal has on a number of occasions been stolen by a number of different groups, and that's very wrong," Bates said.
While Lin concedes that Bates' hopes of passing laws on the local and state levels that make stealing free newspapers illegal is a "step in the right direction," he said Bates has still lost much of his credibility.
Although he has strong support and a good reputation with the people he works with, Bates said he will have to prove himself to the "broad middle" of Berkeley residents.
"My opponents will never forgive me. They would like my head on a stick," Bates said. "They would like me just not to govern."
But Bates maintains that he will still have the ability to implement the projects he said the people of Berkeley elected him to do.
According to the Alameda County District Attorney, Bates is being charged with an infraction because he has no previous criminal history. The Penal Code of California allows first time offenders to be charged with an infraction punishable by a fine.
Bates will be given a Notice to Appear at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
Berkeley mayor will plead guilty. Infraction charge means maximum fine for Bates' paper theft is $250
Charles Burress, San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2002
The uncertainty over what the law will do with newly elected Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates for stealing newspapers ended Wednesday when his attorney disclosed that he will be charged with an infraction and will plead guilty.
The charge -- a minor offense like a speeding ticket -- is likely to disappoint people on both sides of the heated dispute over Bates' pre-election theft of Daily Californian newspapers that endorsed his opponent, then- incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean. The maximum penalty is a fine of $250, said Bates' lawyer, Malcolm Burnstein.
An infraction is a lesser crime than misdemeanor petty theft, the category assigned to Bates' offense by UC Berkeley police in their report to the Alameda County District Attorney. A misdemeanor is more serious and is punishable by both a fine and up to a year in jail.
The contrite and embarrassed Bates, a former state assemblyman and current leader of the leftist-liberal faction that controls the city council, admitted last week that he stole about 1,000 copies of the campus newspaper Nov. 4 from their kiosk on Sproul Plaza, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. In an apparent fit of pique, he threw them into the trash.
The incident has generated national media coverage and sharp criticism of Bates, who has apologized several times, most notably at his first council meeting as mayor Tuesday night.
"His plea will be guilty, as he has said," Burnstein said. Bates is to appear in court Jan. 8, Burnstein said. Bates could not be reached for comment.
Burnstein said he was informed of the charge by Deputy District Attorney John Adams in a Wednesday phone message that Burnstein did not hear until evening.
"I'm sorry he (Adams) saw fit to charge," Burnstein said. "I'm pleased the charge is not a serious charge, recognizing that the offense is not a major offense. And now we have to get on with the business of running the city of Berkeley."
Adams, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night, noted in an earlier interview that 90 percent of the papers had been recovered and restored to the racks.
He also noted that the Daily Cal is free, and while agreeing that free papers have value because of their advertising, he said the net loss of only about 100 or so papers could be viewed as relatively small.
Adams' pending decision had been under a spotlight because Bates' son is an assistant district attorney in Alameda County and because one of Bates' aides used to work in the same office with Adams. Adams said he was not influenced by those ties.
Councilmember Linda Maio, a political ally of Bates, said, "I'll be glad it's over, but it's not really over for Tom. . . . I think the real penalty for Tom is everything he's been through and having his whole career basically forgotten.
"Whatever they do with the criminal justice system, the real consequences have much broader reach."
"It seems like a slap on the wrist," said UC Berkeley student Steve Sexton, one of four students who reported seeing Bates trash the papers. "I think in Berkeley, a city that values free speech as much as it does, the theft of newspapers should come at a higher cost than that."
Sexton is associate editor of the California Patriot, a conservative student publication that wrote more favorably of Dean than Bates.
"I think probably just the humiliation is what's important," said Councilmember Miriam Hawley, a member of the so-called moderate minority allied with Dean. "I don't think the charge will make a whole lot of difference. People are going to have to be convinced by the way he acts."
The Daily Cal, which reported that Bates denied taking the papers at the time, has called for his resignation, but Bates has said he will not resign.
The overflow audience that heard Bates' formal apology and admission of guilt at the beginning of Tuesday's council meeting was sharply divided, though his cheering supporters outnumbered those shouting "resign!"
A small number of demonstrators outside demanded he step down. But his fellow councilmembers, while criticizing the theft, urged that the past be put behind them and that Bates be given the chance to demonstrate his leadership.