WOOLSEY APOLOGIZES AFTER SEEKING LENIENT SENTENCE FOR RAPISTCONGRESSWOMAN WROTE TO MARIN JUDGE ON BEHALF OF SON OF STAFF MEMBER
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.