Rep. Lynn Woolsey sought a lenient sentence for a convicted rapist who is

the son of one of her staffers, igniting a political firestorm over the


The Petaluma Democrat quickly apologized after a Marin County newspaper

reported she intervened on behalf of Stewart Pearson, who pleaded guilty last

fall to raping a 17-year-old Terra Linda girl and covering her face with a rag

soaked in household chemicals in an attempt to incapacitate her.

Pearson, 20, had volunteered on Woolsey's campaign and is the son of an

employee in the congresswoman's San Rafael office.

''Stewart Pearson is a young man from a supportive family,'' Woolsey wrote

in a Dec. 2 letter on congressional stationery to Marin County Superior Court

Judge Terrence Boren one month before Pearson was sentenced. ''I believe he

has a promising life ahead of him, and I urge you to consider these factors

when deciding upon a suitable sentence.''

The letter was signed, ''Lynn Woolsey, Member of Congress.''

Pearson pleaded guilty to rape in September in a deal that dropped other

charges, including assault and sodomy. Woolsey's intervention did nothing to

sway the judge, who sentenced Pearson in January to eight years in state

prison, the maximum allowed under law.

The attempt to influence the court outraged a Marin County deputy district

attorney who prosecuted the case.

The assault was ''as bad as it gets,'' prosecutor Alan Charmatz told the

Marin Independent Journal in a story published Saturday.

''It's hard to imagine that after someone has committed a brutal crime like

that they (Woolsey's office) would want to write a letter,'' Charmatz said.

Woolsey issued a statement over the weekend apologizing for the letter.

''Mr. Pearson's mother is a faithful employee, who I wanted to help, but I

should not have intervened,'' Woolsey said.

''Given my support for both women's rights and victims' rights, my

constituents and my community are right to be shocked by my action. I

apologize to them. But most of all I apologize to the young woman and her


''I apologize for making a horrible situation worse, and I am sorry that

they have been forced to relive this heinous crime by reading about it in the

newspaper, again.''

Woolsey is seeking her seventh term in the 6th Congressional District,

which includes Marin and most of Sonoma County. A liberal in the left-leaning

North Bay, she is considered the heavy favorite to win the Democratic primary

in March and re-election in November.

Gloria Young, executive director of the Santa Rosa rape crisis center

United Against Sexual Assault, expressed disappointment that Woolsey was

trying to help a rapist when his teen victim ''will live with the memory of

this attack for the rest of her life.''

The news was especially troubling because Woolsey has always had a

''pro-feminine, anti-violence agenda,'' Young said.

''My disappointment was that she was intervening on behalf of someone who

was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl and it was a very brutal rape,''

Young said, adding she was glad to hear Woolsey has apologized.

San Rafael Police Lt. Jeff Franzini said Pearson and the victim were

acquaintances. Pearson spent the night on the victim's sofa last July and

sneaked into her bedroom in the morning while she was sleeping, Franzini said.

Pearson tried to incapacitate the teen by covering her face with a rag

soaked in chemicals and then forcibly raped her when that failed, Franzini


On Monday, Marin District Attorney Paula Kamena issued a statement, saying,

''Accessibility and openness is at the core of the court process. An

interested party should be able to express their opinion. It is a personal

choice as to whether a person would do this on an informed or uninformed


Two of Woolsey's political opponents accused her of misusing her office.

Mill Valley communications consultant Renn Vara, who is challenging Woolsey

for the Democratic nomination in the March 2 primary, said it was ''terribly

inappropriate'' for Woolsey to use her office to try to benefit a convicted

criminal because it was her employee's son.

''My concern overall is that she let a letter like that go out,'' Vara

said, adding he was pleased Woolsey apologized. ''It's just another example of

her being asleep at the wheel.''

Paul Erickson, a Santa Rosa real estate appraiser who is running unopposed

for the Republican nomination, said he could understand why Woolsey wanted to

help her employee's son, but she should not have used her congressional office

to do it.

''She represents a lot of people,'' he said. ''I can't imagine any of them

agree with her on that letter.''

News researcher Teresa Meikle contributed to this story. You can reach

Staff Writer Spencer Soper at 521-5257 or

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