Former editor chooses jail over probation


Atherton resident Brian Pardee Bothun, a former reporter for the Daily Post and former editor of the Palo Alto Daily News, has decided to serve jail time rather than undergo probation for three years in connection with his no-contest plea in January to charges of possession of obscene material, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bothun, 48, told San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Susan Etizadi that he "did not want to be placed on probation," Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a report. The judge then denied probation and sentenced Mr. Bothun to 204 days in jail, with one day credit for time served. He is now in jail, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

Asked to explain Mr. Bothun's reasoning, Daniel Barton, his attorney, said that probation would greatly reduce Mr. Bothun's rights to privacy for three years, and that he "doesn't trust" the Atherton Police Department to treat him well because, as a reporter, he once wrote a story that cast a former Atherton police chief in a negative light.

Police arrested Mr. Bothun in April 2009 in Santa Clara on charges of possession and use of dangerous drugs, and in March 2008 in Atherton after a domestic violence call during which police said they found images of child pornography on his computer, images Mr. Bothun's attorney said were put there by someone else.

Probation, Mr. Barton said, typically includes the surrender of all computer passwords, scrutiny of all computer activity, and the right of police to search him, his home and his vehicle without the need of a warrant or probable cause.

"Brian doesn't have a lot of friends in the Atherton Police Department," Mr. Barton said. "He thinks that (probation) is kind of (an) operation set up for people to misuse their authority."

Asked to comment, Assistant District Attorney Karen Guidotti said that defense attorneys can register complaints of police harassment with Superior Court. If it's constant or unreasonable, an attorney should have no trouble establishing that harassment is occurring, and the evidence obtained from such a search would be thrown out, she said.

After seeing the county's probation report, Mr. Bothun exercised his right to go to jail rather than accept a plea bargain that also included 180 days in jail, probation, fines and drug testing, Mr. Barton said, adding that the report contained "Frankenstein monster conditions."

While Mr. Bothun was sentenced to the maximum 204 days in jail, he will actually serve 101 days, which includes his one-day credit for time already served, Ms. Guidotti said.

All convicted offenders serve 50 percent of their sentences unless the offender has to register as a sex offender or the crime qualifies as a strike under the three-strikes law or the offender already has a strike on the record, Ms. Guidotti said.

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Posted by Freedom of the Press!
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 6, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thank you Almanac for your article on the Bothun story.
What happened to a fellow local newspaper editor/reporter and Atherton resident, who raised questions about the Atherton Police Department, should be of much interest to you specifically, the press in general, and raise a lot of red flags for Atherton residents who have had a growing lists of abuse of power issues laid out before them recently.
Rather than take Ms. Guidotti's explanation alone to explain how Mr. Bothun feels, I would love you to interview him directly either now or after his release. Disgraced ex Aherton Police Chief Brennan is now on County Jail Duty which is scary to even think about.....
I would love it if you hired Mr. Bothun when he gets out--but at least interview him and make sure he survives his sentence.
We all owe him that after what they have put him through.
Remember everyone -that porn "appeared" on the Finance directors computer as the means for discrediting him as well--so we have seen this movie before and quite recently.

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Posted by wears a badge
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

There is a reason the DA didn't go after the finance director. It's the same reason Atherton is no longer welcome on the react task force.

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Posted by Freedom of the press
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Really? Off the list!
I would love it if we could shed our selves of the R.E A.C.T. task force.
It has a long history in this town of both temptation and actualization, for abuse of the technology.
I believe it is a multi county resource and would I like some one else take their turn at housing it.
Get it out of here before newly formed Town Task force cooks up some big plan to build it a fancy new headquarters paid for with an increased parcel tax.
It's the county's problem. It has caused too many here.

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Posted by What a statement
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm

What a sad statement about the APD: an educated newspaper editor would rather spend time in jail than trust them.

Mr. Buckheit: can you please fix this problem once and for all? We are counting on you and I imagine so is Mr. Bothun.

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Posted by Michael Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2010 at 4:37 am

Sad but true. An educated newspaper editor who is a resident of Atherton doesn't rust the Atherton Police Department. Bothun was a whistleblower he wrote about the APD he had a personal experience with R.E.A.C.T. Task force.

I am concerned for the personal safety of Mr. Bothun now that he is in San Mateo County Jail where ex Chief of Police of Atherton Robert Brennan works, I am so concerned I am notifying San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, County Counsel, the Sheriff, and UnderSheriff.

If anyone else shares my concern please e-mail or write letters to them ASAP.

I hope this turns out OK

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Posted by Michael Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

e-mail sent this morning.

Good morning Supervisors and County Counsel,

I am very concerned for the safety of Mr. Brian Bothun in our jail for the next 100 days.

San Mateo County has an excellent reputation for taking care of our inmates. This one is a little different. Mr. Bothun is a Whistleblower and has published articles about the Atherton Police Department in the past. Our Sheriff Department has hired Robert Brennan who used to be the Police Chief of the Town of Atherton and one of the subjects of Mr. Bothun's article. I have heard that Brennan works at the jail.

Would you please forward this e-mail to Sheriff Greg Munks and Under-Sheriff Carlos Bolanos with the instruction or recommendation that Robert Brennan is to have no contact with inmate Bothun. I think this will save us all alot of potential grief.

Thank You

Michael G. Stogner

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Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on May 7, 2010 at 10:08 am

David Boyce is a registered user.

For the record, Mr. Bothun's story (or stories) he wrote as a reporter were about former Atherton Police Chief Steve Cader, who was chief in 2000, according to Almanac archives.

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Posted by Michael Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

For the record Mr. Bothun should be protected from Bob Brennan in my opinion.

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Posted by code blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Mr. Boyce--Chief Brennen was acting Chief of Police in Atherton in early 2008 when Bothan was arrested. Brennan currently, (rather interestingly) has county jail duty--so this is the concern people are expressing for Bothan's well fare.
It is entirely possible that Bothan's reporting in 2008 was of some liability to the police derpartment or"important" people, for which ever Atherton scandal was trying to surface around that time--and this is worth considering. However it is also possible that it was retribution "served cold" from 2000 as a favor amongst chiefs. Or maybe both.
What disturbs me is that the misuse of REACT technology is featured during each of these periods of time, and is apparently related to both events--not that there have not been others. I also find it disturbing that there are Atherton officers involved in the Bothan arrest who not only work for REACT but grew up here as his neighbor.
It feels like a lot of old vendettas converging to me.
I want a free press.

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Posted by big brother
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 9, 2010 at 10:13 pm

If a spammer emails you child porn and it goes straight to your junk folder and you never even see it, then you too can be convicted of having "child porn" on your computer. Scary stuff.

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Posted by Freedom of the press
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 10, 2010 at 12:48 am

It is not only true, that any or all of us could have lord knows what, hidden on our computers in the form of random junk mail porn files--but it is also true that porn is not illegal in this country and never has been.
I believe that Mr, Wagstaff was quoted in the papers, talking about the difficulty in determining the age of the minors/adults, in a handful of difficult ti discern photos, and his inclination to hire, if necessary, experts who might be able to weigh in on guessing which side of the line the young adults might be on. Does this not sound like reasonable doubt already--if they were going to need to hire some one to eliminate doubt over what must have been borderline "grey" areas about age? It not only sounds like reasonable doubt, but to me it sounds like a kind of threat coming from the DA's office. To me that would sound like--we will find a way to get you.
What I Know for sure is that Bothan was a great investigative reporter--who had few qualms about asking questions or challenging authority--who had raised questions about the Atherton Police in the past--and who had conflicted relationships since childhood, with some officers on the Atherton force.
I also know for certain that the Atherton Police have used in the past- the "discovery" of porn, which had been intentionally placed onto the computers of administrative officials, to discredit, ruin and control them, to keep them from doing their job.
I think Mr Bothans statement about serving jail time rather than be at the mercy of the Atherton police for random search and seizure--speaks volumes about the way he expects to be treated by them. This should worry everyone, at least a little--and maybe a lot.

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Posted by e.grimley
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 10, 2010 at 10:55 pm

code blue.....Mr. Boyce is entirely correct. Mr.Bothun's investigative reporting into the Town's officials began in the mid 90's when the 'council' at the time made a huge mistake. They hired a City Manager who was more concerned with his gold necklaces and tennis game than he was with running the Town. He, in turn, was given the authority to hire the Chief of Police upon Chief Rolley's retirement. His pick, Chief Cader....and thus the problems began. Allegations of mismanagement of funds, illegal use of the law enforcement computer system, illegal voting, etc., etc. It took awhile for the residents to remove them, but they did. They also removed those who turned a blind eye to what was happening (and even helped cover it up) through the voting process. Mr. Bothun continued to dig back then and continued to to do so until a couple of years ago...and we know what stopped him then. I must question your comment on another blog though...
"and by the way - Didi is back" Ask Mr. Bothun is she wasn't part of the problem then....along with her good friend 'Nan.' The two of them, along with M. Dudley, chose not to run again when their terms were up....they pretty much knew the gig was up!

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Posted by freedom of the press
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 11, 2010 at 12:41 am

Supposedly, the computer was confiscated because of a tip from a disgruntled domestic partner who was on their way out of the relationship and the house.
If this is even really what happened to give the police cause--then they were probably thrilled for an opportunity to bring down an overly inquisitive reporter, who had been vocal on police affairs for years.
I can imagine, that there would have been hell to pay if the police had not been absolutely sure, to find something on that computer in order to justify the search.
I want a free press and reporters who are free to question police authority without retribution --It would be nice if the police understood why this is important for their own internal culture to stay healthy--but mostly, I just want a free press.
This whole situation is just too fishy.

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Posted by code blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

E. Grimley:
I Don't know for sure why Didi has her toe back in the water, but with Allen Carlson and Janz off the council, maybe her old proxy war against McKiethen is off and she's fixing to go back to mano a mano. It didn't work out to well for her last round, and I bet it still smarts. Too much of the last nine years has been all about only that, and to the benefit of no one.
If she told the APD to jump, it would have been traditional for them to do so.
Too bad the APD can't stay out of politics--I'm sure they get pressured--but it always ends so badly...... and now even for the press, just trying to follow the story.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I'm pleased to report that I met with Brian Bothun this morning in San Mateo County Jail. We had a Great talk. He was very pleased to hear about my e-mail to all San Mateo County Leaders about my concern for his safety from ex Atherton Police Chief Robert Brennan now San Mateo County Sheriff's recent hire Robert Brennan. As it turns out according to Bothun Robert Brennan made a special effort to greet him and personally take him to his cell when he first arrived. He told he hasn't seen Brennan in several days. We smiled, I told him maybe my e-mail has helped.

Welcome to San Mateo County

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Posted by Freedom of the press
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Thank you Michael Stogner for taking the time to visit one of Atherton's political prisoners in the county jail and insuring that ex-APD Chief Brennen has been removed from any proximate temptation for continued harassment during Mr, Bothan's confinement.
Unfortunately, it was completely predictable that he would go out of his way and out of protocol to insist on escorting this Atherton resident to his cell. The ex Chief's bully bravado and temper are precisely why he was forced out of Atherton and why he is now working for the sheriff. It would be nice to think that all the anger management training was effective-but -it is much better to be prophylactic on behalf of some one already as victimized as Mr Bothun has been, simply for asking too many questions as an editor and reporter about the APD.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2010 at 7:07 am

On Mon, May 17, 2010 at 5:17 PM, Michael Stogner <> wrote:
To Rich Gordon, President of the Board of Supervisors of San Mateo County.

Dear Rich,

I have to say that after all these years bringing what I believed to be serious and legitimate concerns to the Boards attention I am disappointed (not surprised) in your lack of communication regarding what turns out to be an accurate concern for Mr. Brian Bothun's safety. I visited him last week to find out that SMCSO Robert Brennan made it his personal duty to escort Mr. Bothun to his cell even though he wasn't supposed to. Mr. Bothun told me he had not seen Robert Brennan for several days. It would have been nice if anyone from San Mateo County would have taken the minute or two to respond to my e-mail.

Had you ever responded to my Official Investigation Request of DDA Steve Wagstaffe you would have known why I am concerned about the Ex Atherton Police Chief Robert Brennan being anywhere near Atherton resident and ex newspaper editor Brian Bothun.

I can honestly say I just don't get it. The non-response

Michael G. Stogner

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Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 22, 2010 at 2:02 am

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

I have been copied on e-mail traffic about this issue, and the efforts that Michael Stogner and Peter Carpenter have made to ensure the safety of Brian Bothun in the San Mateo jail. Whatever your opinion of Mr. Bothun's guilt or innocence, he is only supposed to get the punishment ascribed by the judge. Chiding, harassment, and perhaps even worse were never part of the program. I believe the e-mails from Messrs. Stogner and Carpenter have been effective in that there is now written notice to the county that there is cause for concern, and this in theory should prevent anything stupid from happening. Kudos to these two heroes.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 22, 2010 at 5:59 am

Date: May 19, 2010 9:13:49 PM PDT
To: Michael Stogner <>

Subject: Re: Brian Bothun's safety in our jail

Mr. Murphy,
Thank you for verifying that Mr. Brennan's contacts with Mr. Bothun while Mr. Bothun is in the custody of San Mateo County are a 'result of Mr. Brennan's execution of M. Brennan's assigned duties'. This is particular important since you also acknowledge that County has been made explicitly aware of the potential for impropriety.

Therefore, should there be any improprieties in any contact between Mr. Brennan and Mr. Bothun then San Mateo County will be held responsible for failing to properly perform its custodial responsibilities.

Peter Carpenter

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2010 at 6:59 am

Re: Brian Bothun's safety in our jail

Mr. Murphy,

Thank You for the response, and I am glad to know that my concern was passed on to the Sheriff that day. You and I can disagree on the unfounded conclusion till the cows come home. I have seen enough unfounded conclusions in San Mateo County over the years to not be to concerned. Now that everyone has been put on notice about my concern for Mr. Bothun's safety from Robert Brennan, this should be a win/win for

Thank You,

Michael G. Stogner

--- On Wed, 5/19/10, Michael Murphy <> wrote:

From: Michael Murphy <>
Subject: Re: Brian Bothun's safety in our jail
To: "Michael Stogner" <>
Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 4:32 PM

Mr. Stogner:

The e-mail that you sent on May 7, 2010, to Supervisor Gordon and others, indicating your concern about Mr. Bothun, was forwarded to the Sheriff and Undersheriff the day that it was received from you. It has been confirmed that any contact that occurred between Mr. Brennan and Mr. Bothun was a result of Mr. Brennan's execution of Mr. Brennan's assigned duties, and that your stated concerns about Mr. Bothun's safety while in custody are unfounded.

Michael Murphy
County Counsel

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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 26, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Has anyone checked on political prisoner/ex newspaper editor Brian Bothan lately?
It has been two or three weeks now since I have heard any news of his condition,
and the last report seemed to confirm that ex police chief Bob Brennen was (as predicted) down there breathing down Bothan's neck. We should be keeping track of this story to make sure he is surviving this thing still in tact.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

Atherton's Political Prisoner (Melinda Tevis gets title credit) is doing well. Ex Atherton Police Chief now Sheriff Jail Bailiff Robert Brennan has not been seen since the County was notified
of a safety concern.

He hopes his letter to the Almanac is published and I have been informed it has today.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2010 at 7:19 am

On my last visit to Brian Bothun he mentioned it seemed strange that he was not allowed access daily to news papers.

This could be the perfect job for Service League of San Mateo County a little non profit organization that receives about $1,700,000 per year from San Mateo County. Helping rebuild the lives of inmates, and prayer meetings.

Maybe just supplying daily access to the local news would help this inmate rebuild his own life.

Short List of members. Sheriff Greg Munks, Don Horsley, jim Fox, Jerry Hill, Mark Church, Rose Gibson, Adreinne Tissier, Carole Groom, Jackie Speier, Anna Eschoo. Ex member Robert Brennan.
Web Link

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Posted by karen hagstrom
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2010 at 10:12 pm


I drove down from San Francisco to visit Brian today. He is an old high school friend of my husband. He seemed to be in good spirits. But we didn't talk about anything heavy, just about high school friends-

It's not that hard to visit him. He is allowed 2 visits every 7 days. But you have to sign up right on the hour to see him on the next time slot for visiting-

My email is if you want to ask questions about visiting or how Brian looked or what he said about what it's like in jail.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I'm sure Mr. Bothun will have a very interesting story to tell when he is released.

This is an important story and I hope the local newspapers, including The Almanac, will publish it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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