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Silva attorney on embezzlement charges: ‘We should all keep an open mind’

Lawyers for former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva urged people Friday to “keep an open mind” as he faces arrest on multiple felony charges when he returns home from his vacation in Colombia.

It marks the latest tribulation for Silva, who unexpectedly rose on a populist theme in 2012 before enduring a turbulent four years in office as Stockton struggled to recover from the recession and a prominent bankruptcy filing.

Already facing an uphill battle for re-election last year, Silva was arrested in August on charges related to a strip-poker game at his Amador County youth camp and then lost the mayor’s race by more than 50 percentage points to upstart Michael Tubbs.

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for Silva alleging misappropriation of public funds, grand theft, embezzlement and other charges. All come with a white-collar crime enhancement imposed when a “pattern of related felony conduct” results in the theft of more than $100,000. The DA’s Office also executed search warrants Thursday at Silva’s home and at the Stockton Kids Club.

Silva’s attorney, Allen Sawyer, said Silva was trying to rebook his flight from Colombia and travel back to Stockton by Monday. The arrest warrant lists bail for the former mayor at $1 million.

“We should all keep an open mind,” Sawyer said. “It has already been shown that things are not always as they appear,” referring to Silva’s earlier felony case in Amador County. Silva has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges in that case.

The search warrants into Silva’s home and the Kids Club expired Thursday night, said Tim Daly, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, but the investigation is ongoing.

Mark Reichel, another Silva attorney, said nothing can move forward until Silva re-enters the country. Any evidence investigators found will not be given to lawyers until the arrest warrant ends, he said.

Reichel called the public search into Silva’s home and the Kids Club “heavy-handed.”

“They knew he wasn’t home. He has a very transparent life, on Facebook said he was out of the country,” Reichel said. “He should have been more appropriately summoned into court, when he could have complied.”

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Silva said, “Apparently Stockton can manage without me for a while so I decided to go explore the world. ‘I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.’ 

Sawyer said the new charges are financial in nature and relate to the Stockton Kids Club. Silva was chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Stockton from 2005 to 2013.

The Kids Club is the successor to the Boys & Girls Club of Stockton. The Boys & Girls Club of America revoked the club’s 50-year charter in December 2013 after months of controversy involving some of its leaders, including Silva, who had served as director and a board member of the club, according to the Stockton Record.

The Kids Club, a nonprofit, aspires to “get kids off the street and into structured programs,” according to its Facebook page.

Sawyer said Silva has supported the club financially and “physically.”

“If not for him being present, there would not be a Kids Club,” Sawyer said.

In August, Silva was arrested in Amador County where he was conducting his annual camp for disadvantaged children. The Amador County District Attorney’s Office charged him with recording confidential communications, a felony that was later reduced to a misdemeanor, and three other misdemeanors: contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcohol to a person younger than 21, and child endangerment.

The charges stemmed from a strip-poker game that prosecutors said he held with teen counselors at the camp the previous year.

In the fall of 2015, federal agents had searched the mayor’s belongings and confiscated his cellphone and laptop when he returned to San Francisco from a trip to China. A search of Silva’s phone produced 23 photographs and four video clips of the youth camp held Aug. 3-9, the Amador County DA’s Office said.

The clips contained audio of a conversation between participants involved in a strip-poker game in Silva’s bedroom, authorities said. The conversation between the participants indicated that they were naked and that one of the participants was a 16-year-old boy.

In November 2016, Silva rejected a settlement offer that would have closed the criminal case against him. The felony charge against him for the illegal recording incident was reduced to a misdemeanor in October. Silva’s next court hearing for this case was scheduled to take place Tuesday.

Silva, a Republican, was elected mayor in an upset in November 2012, after a summer in which Stockton filed for bankruptcy protection and experienced a soaring murder rate. He promised during the campaign to not take a salary until he balanced the city budget and restored its police presence. But his tenure as mayor was quickly marked by controversy and conflict with other city officials.

His last day in office was Dec. 31.

As Silva faces another arrest, his 26-year-old successor, Tubbs, continues to see his star climb. Tubbs spoke to Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in a podcast released Thursday that detailed his political rise.

Robin Opsahl: 916-321-1176, @robinlopsahl

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