Woman held on $500,000 bail for vandalism of San Jose mayor's home

A South Bay woman held on $500,000 bail for a misdemeanor offense of vandalizing Mayor Sam Liccardo’s house will be released Tuesday evening.

Haley Scimone was arrested Oct. 3, But San Jose police never brought the case to the district attorney for prosecution. Instead investigators secured a Ramey Warrant. It allowed Superior Court Judge Paul Bernal to sign-off on charges and the arrest, without detectives going through the DA’s office to build a case and seek charges.

“It begs the question whether Haley is being retaliated for being a protestor and for her political activity in the community,” said Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Carlie Ware.

As Ware headed to court Tuesday afternoon, sheriff’s deputies were poised to release Scimone from the Elmwood women’s prison in San Jose.

The 23-year-old San Jose resident is one of three people accused of vandalizing the home of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in August. The alleged crime was part of demonstrations against the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Superior Court Judge Paul Bernal set Scimone’s bail at $500,000. The amount is ten times the amount for a non-violent vandalism charge.

“I think this is outrageous. It’s ridiculous. I don’t normally say those kinds of things, but this is truly absurd,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Prof. W. David Ball. “In the time of a global pandemic, I think we should use pre-trial detention very, very abstemiously. We shouldn’t just be throwing it out there.”

At a Tuesday morning hearing challenging the bail amount, and amid fervor over it, DA’s office lawyers told Judge Bernal they, "Declined to file (charges) pending further investigation.”

Critics charge Judge Bernal, a friend of Mayor Liccardo’s dating back to the 1990s, who was first elected to the bench in 2000, over stepped his authority by setting such an astronomically high bail for a woman with no criminal record. And at a time when Santa Clara County has a zero-bail policy due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on those incarcerated.

A spokesman for the Superior Court released a statement saying in part, “…All Bail Schedules, including the Emergency Bail Schedule the Court has adopted, are discretionary, not mandatory. The setting of bail remains in the discretion of the judicial officer reviewing the case.”

In a statement, Mayor Liccardo says in part, “I have not communicated in any way with either Judge Bernal or anyone else at the courthouse…I don’t understand why bail would have been set so high…”

“The idea that this is being treated more serious than raping someone, or pimping a victim under the age of 16 – that’s $100,000. That is outrageous. Really, truly unjustifiable,” said Prof. Ball.

Added Ware, “If you are a person that is concerned about government about abuse, and police abuse of power, this scenario is the typical nightmare that some of us are worried can happen.”

As Scimone prepares to leave jail her legal troubles may not be over. The district attorney’s office could still come back and file charges at a later date. The two other people wanted for vandalizing the mayor’s home – 25 year old Daniel Barrera and 30 year old Jesilyn Faust -- have not been caught.