Former mayor and current San Francisco Chronicle columnist Willie Brown offered to help 45 felony domestic violence charges against a tech CEO “go away” for $1 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In 2013, the founder and then-CEO of tech company RadiumOne Gurbaksh Chahal was arrested and charged with beating and kicking his girlfriend 117 times in 30 minutes at Chahal's apartment in San Francisco. According to the Journal, which obtained documents from a court mediation, the RadiumOne board was deeply concerned, not by the violent behavior of their CEO (the incident was caught on security cameras) but by how the charges might impact their initial public offering.
While a lawyer for RadiumOne suggested that brutal domestic violence shouldn't really matter to Wall Street — “It can be argued that passing small bad checks is more relevant to the integrity or ability of an IPO executive than the charges in our situation,” Robert Latta of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati wrote in an email obtained by the Wall Street Journal — others on the board were not so sanguine.
One board member, Steve Westly (you may remember him as a former state controller and 2006 California gubernatorial candidate; the venture capitalist is reportedly planning to run for governor again in 2018) came to the rescue with some classic San Francisco advice: Get Willie.
[jump] Westly emailed Chahal that Willie Brown “believes that he can help you” because Brown knows San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and “may be able to 'back him off.'”
Per the WSJ:
Six days later, in an email with the subject line “Willie Brown,” Mr. Chahal wrote to Mr. Westly: “Just met him. Wants $1 million if he can make this go away. Just gave him a $250K retainer. If you meet him tomorrow. Apply some pressure on him to make this go away in 2013.”
Mr. Westly responded: “Wow. That’s pricey, but probably worth it if he can make it happen. I suspect he will pull out all the stops to get this done.”
While Westly, Chahal, and Brown all declined to speak with the Journal, Gascón said that he never met with Brown about the case, adding, “My office is not for sale.”
(In another email quoted by the Journal, attorney Latta wrote, “Seems like Gascon needs to be visited with some domestic violence. He seems nice.)
Still, whatever Gascón says, most of the charges against Chahal did go away. In April 2014, a judge ruled that the video of the incident was inadmissible because it had been seized without a warrant. Chahal ended up pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts (and getting fired).
Brown returned $198,400 of his retainer the day after the video evidence was struck down. Whatever he ended up doing for Chahal, apparently he valued its worth at $51,600.
Chahal responded to his firing by telling the Journal in 2014, “I feel 100% betrayed. This just shows you the greed of venture capitalists.”
San Franciscans might feel betrayed too by the utter venality of the city's power brokers. Well, unless you're C.W. Nevius.
Brown's co-columnist for the city's largest newspaper chose yesterday afternoon — two hours after the Journals story broke — to share his thoughts on Brown via a two-year-old New York Times profile.
I guess if you're eager to get into the highly lucrative business of influence peddling and disappearing domestic violence charges, Brown is as high as one can aspire. Might as well shoot for the stars, Chuck.