Attorney for SF Official Says Extortion Scheme Caused by Childhood Head Injuries

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Here's an argument that Rod Blagojevich might want to take notes on, now that he has been very unsurprisingly indicted.

Former San Francisco supervisor Ed Jew (who I'm going to refer to as "Ed" here in hopes of not appearing in some very odd Google search results) pleaded guilty last year to bribery and extortion charges, after it came to light that he had demanded $80,000 from certain retailers in his district in exchange for business permits.  (He said $40,000 of that was for "paperwork.")  Actually, I guess I should not call it "his district" because it also turned out he did not live there, in violation of city residency requirements for supervisors.  He resigned after pleading guilty to that and also to lying on election forms about where he lived when he ran for office.  Ed is now facing almost five years in jail on federal charges of mail fraud, bribery and extortion, and is to be sentenced today.

In papers filed on Tuesday, Ed's attorney argued that his client should get leniency because the mail fraud, bribery and extortion were all caused by a head injury he suffered when he was eight years old.  Or possibly one of the other three he has suffered, or possibly by the "accumulation" of head injuries over the years.  It's not clear.

According to the statement, Ed and his younger sister were crossing the road that day some 40 years ago when a motorcyclist ran a red light and bore down upon them.  Ed heroically pushed his sister to safety, "but was struck on the head by the handlebars of the motorcycle [first head injury] and catapulted in the air, falling on his head on the pavement [second head injury]."  Whenever I am struck on the head by the handlebars of a motorcycle, it just knocks me down rather than catapulting me anywhere, but I guess that's possible.  (Maybe he was trying to do a Jackie-Chan-style somersault over the bike, but came up short.)

Ed survived that incident, but his head-injury problems were far from over.  Again according to the statement, Ed was later "struck by a truck while crossing the street [third head injury]" and in high school "was beaten up by several juvenile gang members because he refused to join a gang [fourth head injury]."  And, as with all those who have suffered repeated head trauma as a youngster while engaged in mostly heroic activities, 30 years later these injuries manifested themselves by causing the victim to go out and extort money from tapioca-drink shops.

The statement says an examination concluded that "[t]he accumulation of head injuries, clearly the first injury being the most severe, has affected Ed's functioning in the world. . . . His social naivete and exuberance likely endeared him to people initially, helping him to become supervisor, but ultimately contributed to his downfall when more prudent judgment and impulse control were necessary," like when trying to resist the urge to extort things from people.

Note to all children who may aspire to political office: wear a helmet.

Link: San Francisco Examiner (March 31, 2009)