Newly-released transcripts reveal astonishing details of the ongoing legal saga featuring Santa Clara Councilmember Anthony Becker, who pled not guilty to charges for the alleged leak of a secret grand jury report.
The criminal grand jury heard testimony from 21 officials in March and April — from city leaders to political insiders and 49ers’ executives. Deputy District Attorney Jason Malinsky questioned witnesses for hours in an attempt to nail down whether Becker released the report. In the end, jurors voted to bring the indictment against Becker. He faces two charges that could lead to four years in county jail if convicted.
The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury in October released a 61-page report accusing Becker and four other councilmembers of having unethical ties to the San Francisco 49ers. Former interim city attorney Steve Ngo sent the confidential report to the Santa Clara City Council on Oct. 5 and warned them not to share it with anyone else.
Here are some key takeaways from the 850 pages of testimony released on Friday.
49ers official said Becker leaked the report to him
Rahul Chandhok, who was the team’s chief communications officer, testified that he received a copy of the report from Becker on Oct. 6 — four days before its public release — on an encrypted app called Signal. The app periodically erases messages and they cannot be retrieved. This admission came after Chandhok was granted immunity by the court and became the basis for Becker’s indictment. Chandhok left for Chicago to take a job at the United States Soccer Federation days after testifying.
“When I opened the app, there was a message, and it was just the document,” Chandhok said. “And I clicked the document, the report opened.”
Chandhok testified that Becker said he shared the report with Silicon Valley Voice, which first published an article on Oct. 7. Chandhok admitted to forwarding the secret report via Signal to other top 49ers leaders, including former CFO and part-time compliance manager Larry MacNeil and communications director Elena Caple. MacNeil testified that he can’t remember how he got the report but assumed it was the media.
Chandhok directed a consultant to dig into grand jurors
After receiving the report, Chandhok called Caple and asked her to contact a consultant the team uses for opposition research. He wanted the consultant to “do some research to see if there’s any conflicts of interest” or questionable connections to the mayor, a staunch opponent of the team.
Team officials also weighed whether to “leak” the report before its release to shape the public narrative and to ensure initial media reports included their side of the story. They said that Mayor Lisa Gillmor was doing the same thing.
On Oct. 6, Caple texted the consultant on Signal that the NFL team would “try to leak it tomorow to take the wind out of Gillmor’s sails.” Team officials did not actually do so, Caple testified.
“My goal was to ensure the public have all of the information,” she testified. “We knew that Mayor Gillmor would also be doing the same and presenting the information she thought necessary.”
Team spokesman Brian Brokaw told San José Spotlight on Friday that he could not comment because the transcripts are part of an “ongoing legal matter.”
A Santa Clara councilmember said Becker leaked to media
Only one other Santa Clara elected official testified — Councilmember Suds Jain. He confirmed speaking to Becker on the phone two weeks before his testimony in March.
Jain testified that Becker said during the call that he’d shared the report with Carolyn Schuk of the Silicon Valley Voice. He did not know about Chandhok receiving the report.
“To be honest, I wish he hadn’t told me,” Jain said. “But he did, and so I have to report it today.”
A criminal investigator researched media reports
Two days after Ngo sent the confidential report to councilmembers, many media outlets — including this news organization — appeared to have copies, according to the testimony of criminal investigator Ben Holt.
Holt was tasked with “researching all of the news articles” about the grand jury report to determine which one came first. He called on a tech taskforce to help.
The investigator concluded that Silicon Valley Voice published a story at 3 a.m. on Oct. 7. The San Francisco Chronicle published its story around 9 a.m. that morning followed by this news organization’s report a little more than an hour later. Holt said he believes all three publications had a copy of the report because they had “direct quotes” in their articles. Becker’s supporters have contended that Gillmor leaked the report to the Chronicle, since they believe its reporting has been favored by the mayor.
Becker at one point blamed his boyfriend for the leak
One of Becker’s former campaign volunteers, David Andre, said Becker showed up on his doorstep after the DA’s office raided his home and took his devices. He said he supported Becker because he wanted to “see change in the leadership” after he believed the mayor attacked the city’s convention center where he worked for 28 years.
Andre said Becker told him “my boyfriend did it” when he pressed him about the report’s leak.
“I certainly did not follow up,” Andre testified. “I didn’t want to know anything more than that because I knew when he told me that I could end up here today.”
Becker’s husband was not called to testify. Becker later called Andre — on the day he was subpoenaed — and said to “tell them it was Lisa Gillmor” when Andre asked about the night he visited his home.
Becker’s mom was called to testify
In a confounding series of questions, Becker’s mom, Virginia Goncalves was asked whether she served as treasurer for her son’s campaign for mayor last year and to verify campaign finances presented on a screen. Malinsky, the deputy district attorney, wrapped up the line of questioning by asking her why Becker married his husband.
“Because they love each other?” Goncalves replied.
Although Malinsky did not directly say so, it appears he was implying Becker married his husband to exempt him from testifying through a spousal exception — a claim also made by Andre. Malinsky decided not to enter any of the exhibits he showed Becker’s mom as evidence.
Becker’s supporters, including former Councilmember John McLemore who also testified, are demanding the DA’s office investigate other potential leaks involving Gillmor after the city’s police union — which supports her — put up an opposition website containing the report three days before it was publicly released.
Becker did not respond to a request for comment. He’s due back in court on Aug. 2.
Contact Ramona Giwargis at r[email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.