Senator Kamala Harris is not the only Assistant DA who once worked for Terence Hallinan and is now in the national spotlight. Kimberly Guilfoyle, the significant other of Donald Trump, Jr., is a political “player” in her own right, with enemies powerful enough to plant a story in the New York Times headlined “Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Fund-Raising for Trump Draws Scrutiny.” A subhed explained, “Trump supporters inside and outside the campaign say the operation she’s built hasn’t lived up to expectations.”
Getting favorable ink for Kimberly was once part of my job. Does she ever think, “If only good old Fred was here to have my back?” Not likely.
Kimberly, who was in the General Litigation unit and had handled a few animal abuse cases, had been assigned to prosecute the gruesome “dog mauling case,” which immediately became the biggest story in San Francisco. On January 26, 2001, Diane Whipple, 33, was attacked and killed in the hallway of her Pacific Heights apartment by a huge “gladiator dog” owned by her neighbors, Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel. Whipple, a great athlete, was the soccer coach at St. Mary’s College. Knoller and Noel were once respectable liberal lawyers who had come under the sway of a charismatic prisoner at Pelican Bay, a leader of the Aryan Brotherhood on whose behalf they were keeping the 120-lb Presa Canarias that killed Whipple.
An ambitious prosecutor in the Homicide unit, Jim Hammer, suggested that I tell Terence that the death of Diane Whipple was potentially manslaughter and that he, Hammer, should be assigned to prosecute the case. I told him to lobby the boss directly, which of course he was already doing. On February 7 a front-page profile of Guilfoyle in the Recorder —one of two daily papers covering the local courts— announced that “Kim Guilfoyle is leading the investigation into the dog-mauling case” and quoted Hallinan saying, “I think she’s doing a fine job and I want her to stay with it, even if it goes to homicide.”
The Recorder profile by Dennis Opatrny ran on the front-page alongside a big picture of Guilfoyle looking serious and exceptionally beautiful. (We Struggle against Looksism but we don’t always win.) That morning she came into my office with a copy of the tabloid and closed the door behind her. Opatrny had quoted a lawyer named Jasper Monti* who’d said, “She cuts corners and fudges the truth… She also tries to take credit when she doesn’t deserve it.” Kimberly said she wanted to write a rebuttal, which was fine with me. She also took umbrage at Opatrny having written, “To pay for tuition at the University of San Francisco School of Law, she modeled lingerie for Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s. She passed the bar on her first try after graduating in 1994.” And she didn’t like his tag: “Guilfoyle and SF Supervisor Gavin Newsom are romantically linked. An engagement is imminent, she conceded.” We discussed her response. Later I told Terence that she was upset and why.
On February 9 the Recorder carried a letter from Kimberly defending herself against the put-down. She added in closing, “Since when is it newsworthy that a lawyer was formerly a lingerie model, who happened to pass the bar on the first try, and who may be getting engaged? I look forward to the day when women lawyers are treated with the same respect and professionalism as their male colleagues.”
Beneath hers ran a letter from Terence and his chief assistant, Paul Cummins, putting down Jasper Monti: “‘Consider the source’ is small consolation when one thinks of far-flung colleagues and acquaintances reading a baseless put-down. Mr. Monti represents a client who has been charged by this office in an animal abuse case. [A man had bitten his dog in the neck, claimed he was teaching it not to bite.] Ms. Guilfoyle would not offer the disposition he sought —dismissal of the case. The comment you chose to publish is inaccurate and unfair. We are highly pleased with her work in all respects… She is an exemplary advocate for the People. Her word and her integrity have never been an issue.”
But the prospect of charging Knoller and Noel with manslaughter was becoming a likelihood, and Terence had already decided to make Jim Hammer the lead prosecutor. Guilfoyle would stay on the case and it was she to whom Lt. Henry Hunter, the SFPD officer in charge of the investigation, would continue to report what his inspectors were learning day-by-day. She and Hammer were frequent visitors to my fluorescent cubby because they both wanted to know who in the media had been calling. (Every outlet from Good Morning America to the Noe Valley Voice would, in due course.)
I was surprised by the poor quality of Lt. Hunter’s investigation. Diane Whipple’s screams and the barking of the dogs could be heard on the floor below, but only one resident of the 6th floor —an elderly woman who got a glimpse of the carnage through her peephole and called 911— acknowledged having heard anything. I asked Kimberly to let me see the inspectors’ reports of interviews with the other neighbors. She said none had been conducted. Hunter told her that his officers had “left a flier for them” but nobody had come forward.
“This is why people who can afford it hire private investigators instead of going to the police,” I told her. (This is from memory.) “You’ve got to keep going back and knocking on their doors. People don’t want to get involved as witnesses in a criminal case. It’s much easier to ignore a flier than an officer at your door saying ‘I see you’re home this afternoon. Did you happen to be home the afternoon that Diane Whipple was killed by that dog? You may think the little bit you heard or saw was insignificant, but to those of us who are trying to figure out exactly what happened, every little detail would be useful.'”
According to Jack Webb (a retired SFPD officer who became a successful PI, not the Dragnet actor), “When you go back and knock on their door a third time, they get the message that you don’t believe that they didn’t hear anything.” I don’t know if Kimberly relayed my criticism of his approach to Lt. Hunter. When I shared it with Terence he said, “The old-timers weren’t lazy.”
Unbeknownst to me, Kimberly would soon give an interview to a Chronicle reporter named Craig Marine, who was smitten with her but not with the boss. He wrote —gratuitously and wrongly— 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. Your implication of opportunism is completely off… I used to read your dad in The Nation and I was disappointed to see you uphold the Chronicle tradition of gratuitous Hallinan bashing.”
Publicity around the dog-mauling case was intense and international in scope. Many of the reporters who flocked to the Hall of Justice to cover the pre-trial jousting knew each other from having covered the trial of OJ Simpson. The Press Democrat accurately described the trial of Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel as “San Francisco’s OJ Case.” The extreme media attention reflected the fact that our nation was now in the Era of the 24-Hour News Cycle. Which we’re still spinning in.
Kamala Harris had been a reliable mentor when I started at the DA’s office. At one point I picked up on some tension between her and Kimberly and asked about it. She nodded and said, “From the past. It had to do with a guy.” I didn’t ask if the guy was named Gavin. 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 chief assistant Richard Iglehart, who had worked with Harris in Alameda County, recruited the young up-and-comer (who also 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 the new No. 2.
Before long, 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 resume 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. Kimberly had taken a leave from SFDA and was beginning to pursue a career as a TV pundit. She would not return to work as a prosecutor. Her new career took 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. Her handsome father was a union man and her mother, who died when Kimberly was 10, came from Puerto Rico. When I knew her she made much of her heritage, but in 2017, when Puerto Rico was leveled by a hurricane, the Trump Administration refused to fund reconstruction and Kimberly Guilfoyle evidently did not protest. If she did so privately, she doesn’t have much clout.
* Jasper Monti was a hard-working, left-leaning lawyer who had represented one of Dennis Peron’s co-defendants after the “Big Top” bust in 1978. One day when I was at SFDA I found myself in an elevator with him and Paul Mackieveckas, the narc who had shot Dennis in the thigh. Mackieveckas had been confined for years to a desk job in SFPD’s taxi permitting bureau, but he still wore the Hawaiian shirt favored by the narcotics squad. I studied the floor, hoping to avoid confrontation. Monti looked at the two of us, said our names out loud (in case we hadn’t made each other), and said “How ironic!” Then he got off at the second floor and the doors closed. Mackieveckas glared at me and said, “Your friend Peron has a million dollars buried in a hole in Mexico.” I said, “I sure hope so,” and got off at three. Not long afterwards I heard that Mackieveckas was caught taking bribes and sentenced to two years in prison.