Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Ex-mayor sues San Diego over wife’s implant rupture"

Now that's a headline you don't see everyday.  The LA Time's lead sentence is:
 "Former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock and his wife are suing the city over a 2015 fall she took on a damaged sidewalk that allegedly ruptured her silicone breast implants and eventually required replacement surgery."
I never heard of Hedgecock until I read this article.  There's a lot here, just in this one sentence, to allow people to make all sorts of conclusions.

1.  He's a former San Diego mayor suing the city he headed
2.  Damaged sidewalks can be a serious issue.  My wife painfully broke her wrist a couple of years ago because of just such a sidewalk in Santa Monica (we didn't sue Santa Monica)
3.  She had breast implants

As I say, there are lots of ways to react to this story.  Here are three that jump out to me immediately.

A.   When is it reasonable to sue the city over bad sidewalks and when should the pedestrian just be careful?
B.   Why would the former mayor sue his own city?
C.   Do we really need to know about her implants and what difference might it make?

A.   When is it reasonable to sue the city over bad sidewalks and when should the pedestrian just be careful?
My mom lived on a street with Italian Stone Pine trees that caused 6 inch upthrusts of the sidewalk and the roots rumpled the streets so bad that city had to put up white and orange striped saw-horses to warn the cars.  There was frustration among the neighbors that the city didn't fix things (they eventually did after about five years), but people knew to walk carefully.  LA is so big that if everyone who got injured tripping over a sidewalk sued, it would bust the budget.  So it seems to me there are a several (not mutually exclusive)  reasons why someone might sue:
1.  to get the city to take fixing the sidewalk seriously
2.  because one couldn't afford health insurance and needed to pay the doctor bills
3.  because a lawyer said you could make a lot of money

For me, the first two are legitimate - especially if you donate most or all of what you win for #1.  

B.   Why would the former mayor sue his own city?
Checking out Mayor Hedgecock on Wikipedia, this seems fairly easy to figure out.  He was elected in 1983.  
In 1985, Hedgecock was charged with several felonies related to receiving over $350,000 in illegal campaign funds and was forced from office because of the scandal.[5] All the key players, including Hedgecock's associates and the financier himself,[6] admitted in sworn statements that they knowingly and willingly broke the law when they conspired to funnel the money from a wealthy financier into Hedgecock's 1983 mayoral campaign.[7] Though Hedgecock claimed none of it was true, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and was found guilty of twelve counts of perjury, related to the alleged failure to report all campaign contributions. Since California, like most other states, does not allow convicted felons to hold elected office, Hedgecock was forced to resign on December 5. His first trial ended in a mistrial by to a hung jury after the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. However, two of the 12 jurors in the first trial submitted sworn statements that the jury bailiff, Al Burroughs, provided them alcohol and tried to pressure them into finding Hedgecock guilty. State prosecutors then conducted an investigation into the possibility of criminal jury tampering. As part of the investigation, Burroughs admitted trying to influence the verdict. Under California Superior Court rules, any attempt on a bailiff's part to influence a verdict is "serious misconduct" that can be grounds for reversal. However, prosecutors refused to release the transcripts of their investigation interviews to Hedgecock's attorneys.[8]
An appellate court in San Diego ruled in 1988 that the judge presiding over the second trial "who had announced from the bench that he believed Hedgecock was guilty -- was wrong to block release of" the transcripts to the defendant. Hedgecock was still denied access to those documents for two more years until he appealed to the California Supreme Court, which ordered the transcripts released. In that appeal, the Supreme Court threw out the 12 perjury convictions and set aside the remaining conspiracy charge pending a hearing on Hedgecock's motion for a jury trial on grounds of jury tampering.[8]
The defense finally obtained the transcripts in October 1990. The next month, Hedgecock reached a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in return for no jail time or retrial. As part of the deal, a judge reduced the felony to a misdemeanor and dismissed the case on December 31.[8]
I can understand there was no love lost to San Diego from  Hedgecock.  But it does sound like he was guilty and eventually got off most of the counts because of attempts to sway jurors, which is indefensible, but is not necessarily related to whether he was guilty or not.  

C.   Do we really need to know about her implants and what assumptions do people make about them?

I really can't think of any reason we needed to know about the implants.  I don't see how it matters what injury she got, except, perhaps if there was a statute of limitations issues and it took a long time to understand the injury had happened.  

It seems to me there are a number of basic reasons to get a great implant
1.  to attract attention by getting really big breasts
2.  to build self esteem because one has almost no breasts at all (#1 probably fits here as well)
3.  to help in transitioning from male to female
4.  as part of recovery from breast cancer or other damage to one's breasts

According to UPI, Hedgecock met his wife in 1970 and they were married in 1975.  So he isn't married to some much younger woman with humongous breasts.  I'm guessing this was related to breast cancer.  And it's really no one's business.  

Which leads to another question:  Should the media even mention this?  

There's a dilemma here.  If they don't mention it, people will want to know what medical problem arose.  The public will speculate all sorts of possible damage.  And one could argue that if they really wanted to keep it private, they didn't need to sue the city.  But that means that people with legitimate complaints, but who must reveal private conditions to complain, are less likely to seek justice.  

It certainly didn't need to be in the headline - except to get readers to read the story.  (I was going to use a different verb there, but it seemed in bad taste.)

Looking through more of Hedgecock's biography, he seems like an interesting guy.  He was (is?) a surfer, which is pretty much part of growing up in Southern California.  But his father was ill and he had to work.  He had severe enough acne that it got him out of the draft during the Vietnam War, according to Revolvy.   He attended UC Santa Barbara and Hastings Law School and worked as an environmental lawyer.  He was involved in rock music as a promoter and musician.  Wikipedia reports:
"In the months before the infamous Altamont Free Concert, security was provided by the local Hells' Angels motorcycle club to whom Hedgecock paid a signing bonus of a case of Jack Daniel's.[16]
In 1986 he formed a band with well-known San Diego journalist Thomas K. Arnold called The Arnold-Hedgecock Experience. Arnold was a writer for the Reader, San Diego Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and numerous other publications; in the early 1980s he also engineered 1960s pop star Gary Puckett's comeback. They recorded a cover of "Louie, Louie" and donated proceeds to St. Vincent de Paul, a local charity; they played several concerts around town, including opening for The Kingsmen in Oceanside in front of 10,000 people.[17]"
More recently he's been a conservative talk show host who caused a stir by inviting a White Nationalist onto his program and five years late got national attention again when
"he claimed on his radio program that public schools in the United States teach “hatred of white people” and “hatred of white privilege” and that public schools are 'as anti-American, anti-West and anti-white as you could imagine.'[14]"

In times past, people were known in their communities and people knew how to judge what they said based on past experience.  Our world got much more anonymous as transportation improved and people could move around and recreate themselves.  But with social media today, anonymity can quickly be countered.  But if people don't do a little homework when they read about some event, they can jump to conclusions that aren't warranted.  Or they can give someone the benefit of the doubt they don't deserve.  Most importantly this goes for politicians running for office.  A recent ADN story gave several reasons why people didn't vote in the recent municipal election including lack of time and lack of interest.   And I understand, but really, it's not all that hard to do the work of living in a democracy.  So in this post I wanted to know a little more about this story, and it didn't take too long to find out.  Though it did take a lot longer to write it up.  


  1. Steve, sorry to hear of your wife's accident.
    Are the sidewalks damaged or is it a design flaw issue?

    Have a fantastic weekend.

    1. Thanks, Ziba, for your concern. It was a couple of years ago, but there is still lingering pain on occasion. The sidewalks in LA are often damaged by tree roots. I've seen buckling a foot high in some places. Perhaps if it weren't so dry there most of the time, the roots would be deeper. But trees do important things for the environment, from flood control to clean air, so it's a trade off. I hope your weekend is also a good one. Spring is in the air. Our front yard is just about snow free already.


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