SAN FRANCISCO — Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), who was charged last year with shoplifting items from a Neiman Marcus store in San Francisco’s Union Square, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge on Jan. 6 and said on Jan. 9 that a benign brain tumor may have been a factor.
In October, Hayashi was stopped by a security guard after walking out of the store with nearly $2,500 worth of merchandise — leather pants, a skirt and a blouse — that she had not paid for. She initially faced charges of felony grand theft, to which she pleaded not guilty, and was released on bail.
A felony conviction could have resulted in Hayashi’s expulsion from the Assembly. First elected in 2006, she is in the middle of her third and last term due to term limits. She represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Castro Valley, Dublin and Pleasanton. Her husband is also an elected official: Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis Hayashi.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said that Hayashi’s lack of a criminal record was a factor in reducing the charge to a misdemeanor. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Gerardo Sandoval sentenced her to three years of probation and $180 in fines. She was also ordered to stay at least 50 feet away from the Neiman Marcus store.
Hayashi has not spoken to the press about the incident, but her attorney, Douglas Rappaport, said that the brain tumor might have affected her judgment, but that it is being treated and “has been taken care of.”
In her prepared statement, Hayashi said: “After a lifetime of public service, this has been a painful experience. .. but one of my own making. The simple fact is I unintentionally walked out of a store with items I had not paid for. Of course, I intended to purchase what I had, but I didn’t.
“Losing track of how fast you are driving is no excuse for speeding. And losing track of clothing I was purchasing is no excuse for walking out of a store without paying.
“I accept responsibility and I offer apologies, not excuses. I want to thank my family, constituents and colleagues for the support and patience they have given me during this very difficult personal time.
“There were a number of personal factors that led to the situation where I made this absent-minded error. My medical condition may have complicated the situation. However, I want to be clear that I take full personal responsibility for my actions. I want to assure you that I am taking steps to deal with my health and continuing to work hard for my district and for the people of California.”
Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement regarding the conclusion of the legal proceedings: “Today’s announcement by Assemblymember Hayashi clearly shows that, while she made a serious mistake, she has owned up to her actions and taken responsibility for them. I am confident that with the close of these proceedings, she will continue to ably serve her constituents with the same talent and passion she has displayed throughout her time in office.
“I also wish to express my sincerest hopes for Ms. Hayashi’s speedy recovery from her recent diagnosis. While her condition is serious, her prognosis is good and I have every confidence she will make a full recovery.”
Some observers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, were not satisfied with Hayashi’s explanation. “If her judgment truly was impaired by her medical condition, then she owes the public a better explanation — and more convincing assurances that it never affected her legislative actions and is no longer an issue — than she has given to date,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
Hayashi, the first Korean American to serve in the Legislature, is vice chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. She chairs the Assembly’s Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee and is a member of the Health Committee and Insurance Committee.
She is said to be considering a run for State Senate in 2014.