Agreeing with prosecutors that the "cat is already out of the bag," a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge on Monday denied a defense motion to reseal controversial grand jury transcripts in the ongoing prosecution of East San Jose politician George Shirakawa Jr.
The transcripts and the media reports they have inspired, Shirakawa's attorney Jay Rorty argued, will make it difficult for the former county supervisor to get a fair trial in the second of two cases against him. Rorty said his client has been mercilessly mocked in the press by a scrappy weekly paper that has depicted Shirakawa in one story as a rotund king slipping wads of cash to shadowy figures crouched behind his throne, and in a Mercury News opinion column as a "Superfund site" sullying many of those around him.
Judge Griffin Bonini said Monday he "absolutely agreed that there had been extensive negative media coverage" throughout the Shirakawa prosecution, but he declined to seal the grand jury transcripts that have been publicly available for weeks following Shirakawa's Oct. 24 indictment in the most recent case against him.
Shirakawa, 51, is serving a one-year jail sentence in Alameda County for a dozen political crimes, including perjury on campaign finance forms and gambling with public funds. His pretrial in a separate case involving illegal campaigning on behalf of his friend and former employee Xavier Campos, now a San Jose city councilman, begins next week.
The transcripts in question at Monday's hearing revealed that Campos invoked his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer potentially incriminating questions when he was called before the grand jury. Rorty said that revelation led to press accounts that unfairly imply that both Campos and Shirakawa are guilty.
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