He wouldn’t answer questions in front of a criminal grand jury, but he answered ours.
San Jose Councilman Xavier Campos was questioned under oath regarding the campaign mailing scandal involving his former boss and former supervisor, George Shirakawa. He invoked the Fifth Amendment. Now, at least one legal analyst says, what he told NBC Bay Area could get him in trouble.
Campos is telling NBC Bay Area what he wouldn’t tell a criminal grand jury a month ago: “My confidence in being treated fairly was not there.”
The grand jury was investigating ex-Supervisor Shirakawa and mailers sent during Campos’s election campaign for city council.
The district attorney says Shirakawa’s DNA is on one of those mailers.
Shirakawa was also Campos’s boss for some time.
The mailers were sent to Vietnamese-American voters, and they were emblazoned with the flag of communist Vietnam. The mailers implied Campos’s opponent at the time, Magdalena Carrasco, was aligned with communist Vietnam.
Campos narrowly defeated Carrasco in the race.
NBC Bay Area asked Campos, “Your name is attached to the mailers. It’s assumed it came from your camp. People ask, How can you not know?” Campos replied: “I need to be clear and make this very, very clear. I do not know who produced or distributed those mailers and I had nothing to do with producing and distributing those mailers. I had nothing to do with those mailers."
That’s something the grand jury wanted to hear. But Campos refused to testify, invoking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
Campos said the fact that he pleaded the Fifth should not imply that he couldn’t answer the grand jury’s questions because he might implicate himself criminally further on, if the case proceeds.
“That’s the wrong implication,” Campos said. “I will answer to my constituents and my community."
Campos said he pleaded the Fifth because he doesn’t trust the district attorney’s office.
“I've seen a number of elected officials, and the allies of elected officials, be prosecuted and then charges later dropped or dismissed, and their lives left in shambles," Campos said.
NBC Bay Area showed the exclusive Campos interview to legal analyst Steven Clark.
“Because he doesn’t trust the process, that’s not a valid reason to assert the Fifth," Clark said.
Clark said the DA can now force Campos to testify to the grand jury or the pending Shirakawa trial on the mailers, because Campos in essence waived his Fifth Amendment privilege by talking to NBC Bay Area.
“It’s certainly a very big legal problem for him,” said Clark, a former prosecutor. “Clearly, the DA, after they see these statements, can say, ‘We want to bring him back to the grand jury and ask him these same questions.’"
In a statement, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen would only say, “The grand jury transcript speaks for itself.”
The Campos camp said he used the Fifth Amendment appropriately and will answer all his constituents’ questions about the matter.
“All I can do is continue to do the hard work that I do working in my community," Campos said.
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Campos will be asking that same community to vote for him again next year.
The next hearing for Shirakawa on these mailers is Dec. 4.