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Silicon Valley councilman defers plea on 49ers report leak

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Posted at 5:32 PM, Apr 18, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley councilmember delayed entering his pleas Monday on criminal charges for allegedly lying about leaking a grand jury report on the San Francisco 49ers’ political influence and relationships with the city’s elected officials.

Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker will next appear in court May 3 and he remains out of custody in the meantime. He faces up to four years in county jail if he is convicted of perjury.

Becker, a Democrat, was indicted Friday for allegedly providing a secret report titled, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council,” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local news outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release. The report called Becker and four other Santa Clara councilmembers the “49er Five” and claimed the five elected officials met regularly with the team’s lobbyists without publicly disclosing the topics of discussion. It also alleged the councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers.”

Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the felony criminal charge. He also faces a misdemeanor for leaking the confidential report.

Becker declined to comment when reached by phone Monday. Christopher Montoya, the public defender representing him, did not immediately respond to phone and text messages seeking comment.

Outside the courthouse, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Becker was favoring special interests above his constituents.

“When you leak a confidential report to the target of that report, you’re taking sides against Santa Clara County,” he said. “When you do both of those things — leak and lie — as an elected official, who’s sworn to protect and defend the interest of your constituents before and above your private interests, you have violated everyone’s trust and broken the law.”

Rosen also called on the 49ers to apologize.

The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley. The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes, and years of bad blood.

It’s not the first time a California elected official faces scrutiny over their involvement with professional sports teams. Former Mayor Harry Sidhu of the Southern California city of Anaheim resigned last year after federal officials launched an investigation into the sale of Angel Stadium to the baseball team. Sidhu allegedly gave confidential information to the Angels at least twice during negotiations in hopes of getting a campaign donation.

The 49ers have bankrolled Becker’s local political career by spending at least $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid, prosecutors said. Santa Clara City Mayor Lisa Gillmor, a vocal critic of the football team, did not respond to requests for comment.

The 49ers have “cooperated fully” with the district attorney, Brian Brokaw, a newly hired spokesperson for the team, said Friday. He declined to comment further Monday on Becker’s court appearance. Brokaw is a well-known Sacramento consultant who has worked for prominent California politicians including Vice President Kamala Harris and Gov. Gavin Newsom.