Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to Plead Guilty to Theft
Thursday, 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.
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