Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker has pleaded not guilty for allegedly leaking a confidential civil grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year and lying about it.
Becker was indicted last month on a felony perjury charge and a misdemeanor charge for leaking the document, which criticized the council’s cozy relationship with the NFL team, to former 49ers spokesperson Rahul Chandhok and to reporters or editors at the Silicon Valley Voice.
The councilmember made his first court appearance late last month but declined to enter into a plea at the time so he could seek outside counsel instead of being represented by public defender Christopher Montoya. Becker, who was late to Wednesday’s hearing, was represented once again by Montoya.
The public defender told reporters after his plea that in his experience, “first time impressions of a case are often wrong or incomplete.”
Becker faces four years in county jail if convicted on the perjury charge.
His next court date is August 2.
The news of the indictment has created a stir in Santa Clara, with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and some residents calling on him to resign. The case has even grabbed the attention of Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who in a rare move attended Becker’s first court appearance last month. After the hearing, he told reporters that the councilmember “acted in precisely the way that the civil grand jurors warned against” and that he was a “politician favoring deep-pocketed special interests above his constituents.”
However, some of Becker’s colleagues, like Councilmember Suds Jain and Vice Mayor Kevin Park, have stated the legal process should play out first before any decisions are made in regard to his status on the council.
The grand jury report in question, which was released last October, was highly critical of Becker and four of his colleagues for voting in favor of the 49ers’ interests and holding closed-door meetings with the team’s lobbyists — something the grand jury questioned whether it violated state open-meeting laws.
The report was supposed to become public on Oct. 10, however, a draft of it appeared in several media outlets, including this one, on Oct. 7. The city had been provided with a copy of the report on Oct. 5, but according to the law, the report is considered confidential until it’s released.