Media interest in the dog-mauling case was intense, salacious, and international. The Press Democrat accurately described it as “San Francisco’s O.J. Case,” and many of the reporters knew each other from having covered the trial of O.J. Simpson. Our nation had entered the Era of the 24-Hour News Cycle.
It was up to District Attorney Terence “Kayo” Hallinan to decide whether and how to charge Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel, owners of two huge Presa Canario “Gladiator Dogs,” one of which had attacked and killed their neighbor, Diane Whipple, in the hallway of their Pacific Heights apartment house. The gruesome attack occurred when Knoller got off the elevator after bringing the dogs back from a walk. Whipple had just found her key when the huge beast lunged for her throat. Knoller claimed she tried in vain to save Whipple.
But then Noel began giving interviews to the media and wrote an 18-page letter to Hallinan blaming the victim for wearing a scent. It soon emerged that the two middle-aged lawyers were taking care of the dogs on behalf of Paul “Corffed” Schneider, a Pelican Bay inmate and an Aryan Brotherhood leader, who they had formally adopted. The Chronicle unearthed and excerpted a letter from Noel to Schneider referring to some kinky interaction between Knoller and Bane (who had been put down the day after the killing).
“Everyone thought this was an accident,” said Kayo, looking back. “It was their lack of remorse… We went into the grand jury thinking we had a manslaughter and vicious dog case. The difference was they went into the grand jury and testified.”
Kimberly Guilfoyle and Jim Hammer kept jostling for position on the high-end interview requests. Each of them occasionally failed to give Kayo the credit he was due. Kimberly gave an interview to a Chronicle reporter named Craig Marine, who gallantly defended her lingerie-modeling career and gratuitously commented that Terence Hallinan “shows up at every court appearance to make sure voters don’t forget his mug.” I emailed Marine: “As I’m sure Guilfoyle told you, Hallinan has supervised this case carefully from the start. The decision to assign senior homicide prosecutor Jim Hammer to the case (when a murder charge looked like a long shot), the decision to take it to the grand jury, the decision not to oppose a prospective change of venue motion in the interests of a speedy trial — every strategic call has been Hallinan’s. He has read the voluminous file, debriefed the investigators, met with witnesses and loved ones of the victim, and is conversant with every aspect of the case. Moreover, he does this kind of hands on management with respect to every major felony the DA’s office handles… I used to read your dad in The Nation and I was disappointed to see you uphold the Chronicle tradition of gratuitous Hallinan bashing.”
When I started working closely with Kimberly I picked up on some tension between her and Kamala Harris, my trusted mentor. When I asked Kamala about it she nodded and said, “From the past. It had to do with a guy.” I didn’t ask the guy’s name. In November 2003 Matier & Ross got a column out of the rift between the two women, illustrated with a wicked drawing by Don Asmussen. They wrote:
They both have glamour, brains and determination — they even travel in the same tight-knit San Francisco social circle—but don’t look for district attorney hopeful Kamala Harris to get a job reference from former office mate Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom anytime soon. Because behind the smiles, Guilfoyle Newsom — the network TV analyst and wife of mayoral front-runner Gavin Newsom — is still smarting from what she says was the frosty and underhanded treatment she got from Harris when she was making a bid to return to the D.A.’s office a couple of years back.
“The bottom line is she didn’t want me there,” Guilfoyle Newsom tells us. The back story — as they say in Hollywood — begins in 1996 when freshly elected District Attorney Terence Hallinan swept house at the Hall of Justice, and in the process sent the young and green Guilfoyle packing. She landed in the Los Angeles D.A.’s office.
A short while later, Hallinan’s chief assistant Richard Iglehart, who had worked with Harris in Alameda County, recruited the young up-and-comer (who had been dating Mayor Willie Brown) to supervise the D.A.’s career criminal unit. In time, Iglehart landed a judgeship and exited. Darrell Salomon, a local attorney with his own political connections, became chief assistant in January 2000. Guilfoyle — who by this time was dating the politically ambitious Supervisor Newsom — started making overtures to Salomon and others about returning to San Francisco.
Just what happened next is open to interpretation. Some office insiders say Harris caught wind of Guilfoyle’s plan and got her resumé from the secretarial staff. Next, Guilfoyle Newsom says, Harris was on the phone to her in L.A.:
“She called me and said basically that she was on the hiring committee and in charge of the budget for the D.A.’s office, and that I should have gone through her if I wanted to return to the D.A.’s office and that there was no money to hire me.”
Guilfoyle Newsom — who already had met with Salomon about coming back — says she called the office to find out what was going on and was told that that there was no such hiring committee and that Harris had no say in the matter. ”You have to understand, I came with an excellent resume,” Guilfoyle Newsom said, “and talented women should support other talented women.”
Harris recalled the conversation differently. ”I never discouraged her from joining the office,” she said. “I never suggested to her there wasn’t a job for her in the San Francisco D.A.’s office. Of that, I’m very clear.”
So why did Harris call her? ”To see if she needed any help —to let her know I was there to help her,” Harris said.
She says she’s at a loss to explain Guilfoyle Newsom’s version of events. “I’ve seen Kimberly a number of times over the last few months,” Harris said. “We have great rapport and have great respect for each other.
“I think she is a great lawyer,” Harris added, “and I look forward to working with her.”
When the Matier & Ross column appeared, Terence Hallinan was seeking a third term and trailing Kamala in the polls as the run-off loomed. I was living in the East Bay and had published the first issue of O’Shaughnessy’s. Kimberly had taken a leave from SFDA and was beginning to pursue a career as a TV pundit. She never returned to work as a prosecutor. Her new career would take her to New York, where she soon married an investment broker, had a kid, and got divorced. I don’t know when she met Donald Trump, Jr., or what she sees in him.
Kimberly’s handsome father was a union man and her mother, who died when Kimberly was 10, came from Puerto Rico. She used to make much of her heritage (to me and Marine of the Chronicle, whom she made for a lib-lab); but in 2017, when Puerto Rico was leveled by a hurricane, the Trump Administration withheld reconstruction funding and if Kimberly Guilfoyle pleaded for her people, it was discreetly and in vain.
As I send this off to the AVA on August 10, Kamala’s photo is on the front page of the New York Times accompanying a story by a trio of reporters under the headline, “Is ‘Top Cop’ Now a Reformer? Wrestling with Harris’s Record.” According to the Times, “Ms. Harris also created a ‘re-entry’ program called ‘Back on Track’ that aimed to keep young low-level offenders out of jail if they went to school and kept a job.” To re-enforce the claim that Kamala had created the program, they quote the police chief of East Palo Alto: ‘Re-entry was not a prevailing thought in law enforcement,’ he said. ‘She said this is a unique opportunity to reduce recidivism.’“ (I’ll give 10-to-1 odds that Kamala’s staff steered the Times to that quote.)
The claim that Harris “created a ‘re-entry’ program called ‘Back on Track'” is technically accurate. But it ‘Back on Track’ was a replica of Hallinan’s ‘Streets to School’ program.
The Times reporters also gave Hallinan short shrift by writing, “He was seen as one of the nation’s most progressive district attorneys.” On the issue underlying mass incarceration — the War on Drugs — Terence was the most progressive DA in the nation as of 1996, the lone advocate within law enforcement of legalizing marijuana for medical use. And he was the nation’s first progressive DA, says Susan Breall, a veteran prosecutor who is now a Superior Court judge. “Before Terence nobody had ever heard of ‘a progressive district attorney.’ And no DA’s office that I know of had put significant resources into prosecuting domestic violence cases.”
In the 2003 election, San Francisco’s rightwing police union had endorsed Bill Fazio, who would be a three-time loser in November, and then Kamala over Kayo in the December run-off. As recounted in the Times, “Barely three months into the job, Ms. Harris found herself at odds with the police after a gang member gunned down an officer named Isaac Espinoza. During her campaign, Ms. Harris had opposed the death penalty, in part, as being discriminatory toward people of color, and she did not seek it for Officer Espinoza’s killer… Then, at the funeral, Ms. Harris was blindsided when Senator Dianne Feinstein called for the death penalty.
“The blowback ‘totally traumatized her,’ said Peter Keane, a former member of the Police Commission, which oversees the city’s Police Department. Throughout her tenure, he said, Ms. Harris had ‘traditional prosecution, pro-police, instincts. She has always tried not to be a target of the police.’ In 2007, she stayed quiet as police unions opposed legislation granting public access to disciplinary hearings…’“
So you could say that Kamala folded back then. But if you want to keep hope alive, you could say that she didn’t have the cards as DA of San Francisco or Attorney General of California to effectively reform law enforcement. And maybe she won’t fold when she’s no longer striving to stay in the good graces of Diane Feinstein.
In his column in Sunday’s Chronicle Willie Brown advised Kamala to abjure the vice-presidency and aim for the Attorney General’s job.