By Joe Manthey
In December, Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced legislation to rename the Petaluma downtown post office in honor of former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey. While I can think of many reasons why it should not be renamed after Woolsey, one of them stands out: Tina Phan.
When she was 17, Phan was raped in her apartment by Stewart Pearson, a young man she had known since the seventh grade. She had allowed him to sleep on her couch when, after they had attended the same late-night party, he claimed he had no bus money to get home. Phan awoke the next morning, in her bed, to a toilet-bowl-cleaner-and-Ajax-soaked rag pressed over her face. As she gasped for air and tried to scream, her attacker bruised her face and lips with the rag while brandishing a knife. “He raped her, telling her she was not the first and would not be the last,” a 2004 SF Gate article states.
Pearson plead guilty to rape in a plea bargain in exchange for sodomy and assault charges being dropped. Enter Lynn Woolsey. On her congressional stationery, she wrote a letter of support on behalf of the convicted rapist to the sentencing judge, asking for leniency and noting that he had volunteered for her campaign. “[I]n my mind, he is not a criminal,” Woolsey reportedly told the Marin Independent Journal in 2004.
The assault was “as bad as it gets,” prosecutor Alan Charmatz reportedly told the Marin IJ in 2004. “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 continued.
Woolsey apologized to Phan indirectly through the newspaper. Phan was outraged by Woolsey’s letter and rightfully refused to accept Woolsey’s apology, stating that the congresswoman had abused her power and that her subsequent apology was “hollow” and politically motivated. Said Phan, “I just want people to know what kind of morals Lynn Woolsey has.”
Pearson was sentenced to eight years in prison, the maximum sentence for rape. Given these facts, Huffman’s proposal is not only a slap in the face to Phan, who courageously went public to hold Woolsey accountable for her reprehensible behavior, but to all rape victims.
Joe Manthey is a Petaluma-based male advocate. To have your topical essay considered for publication, write to us at [email protected]