SB City Council Candidates Botello & Sanchez Test Where Free Speech Ends & Libel Begins

Mudslinging and out-and-out misrepresentation in American politics are nearly as old as the Republic itself. So vitriolic and personal were the attacks on him while he was residing in the White House that Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president, at one point lamented the freedom of the press and freedom of speech that he and the other fathers of the country had ensured would be the right of all Americans when they layered the First Amendment into U.S. Constitution. Despite the attacks and indignities he had to weather, Jefferson survived them and he was reelected to a second term. Since the time of Jefferson, succeeding generations of elected officials and candidates for elected offices, high and low, have learned how contentious the entire political process is. Holding, or seeking, public office is not advised for those with thin skin who take offense at being maligned, often in the most unfair of ways, or being lied about in general. All, or nearly all, of those who enter into the realm of politics understand that such prevarication and meanspiritedness on the part of their opponents or their opponents’ campaigns is par for the course and something they simply resign themselves to as the cost of doing political business.
In this year’s race in the City of San Bernardino’s 1st Ward, both candidates, Gil Botello and Theodore Sanchez, have taken umbrage over what they maintain are bald-faced lies emanating from the opposition camp. Indeed, Botello maintains the rough and tumble of politics has gotten too rough, and he wants Sanchez to pay him for that. That is, Botello has filed a lawsuit against Sanchez, alleging libel, slander and defamation for doing one of the things that politicians do, which is, essentially, to libel, slander and defame their opponents.
In this case, Botello claims that Sanchez’s characterization of him as a criminal, which Sanchez maintains grew out of Botello’s 2002 arrest, and that Sanchez calling him a deadbeat, which Sanchez says is a logical interpretation of Botello having declared bankruptcy nine years ago, are outright falsehoods, and that Sanchez knew them to be such.
Sanchez, or more correctly the Committee to Elect Theodore Sanchez, indeed made those claims about Botello in a mailer sent to a cross section of District 1 voters. The upshot of the mailer was that Botello’s assertion that he had experience Sanchez did not possess which qualified him to hold office boiled down to a half-truth. Botello had, Sanchez conceded, experience he did not possess. It was just that Botello’s experience was “The wrong experience for city council,” ac-cording to the mailer. That experience consisted of, Sanchez said, getting arrested and charged criminally 16 years ago and then stiffing his creditors for $7,472 in 2009.
Botello contends none of that is true. In the immediate aftermath of the mailer landing in District 1 voters’ mailboxes, he quickly moved to counter the tactic by addressing the “mistruths” in the mailer with a letter to voters and a cease and desist letter to Sanchez. Sanchez persisted with the mailers. Accordingly, it is Botello’s position that Sanchez with reckless disregard proceeded with propounding false insinuations about him throughout the district. Those falsehoods have spread beyond the district, damaging Botello’s reputation in venues outside the immediate election campaign, according to Botello’s attorney, Vincent Miller.
On October 24 Miller filed suit in San Bernardino County Superior Court on behalf of Botello, asserting the mailer falsely depicted his client as “a criminal,” which has no basis in fact. The mailer falsely, maliciously and purposefully alleged Botello “had been arrested, was subject to a court case and prosecution by the district attorney” when Sanchez and his campaign knew those allegations to be false, according to Miller. Furthermore, Botello had been subjected to the oblo-quy of being represented as “a deadbeat crook and cheat who can’t be trusted.” There is no sub-stance or truth to the mailer’s representations, according to the lawsuit, and that falsehood is demonstrated by the fact that the mailer used fabricated or inapplicable case numbers in repre-senting that there was a criminal filing against Botello. The suit specifies $500,000 in damages. A trial setting conference on the matter has been set for April 22 in Department S-25.
According to Sanchez, Botello, or someone with his exact name, was in fact arrested and charged criminally in 2002. In the intervening 16 years, Sanchez suggested, Botello had his record expunged and the court file pertaining to the matter sealed. Moreover, the basis for alleging Botello skipped out on those he owed money to consists of his 2009 filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. While Botello and Miller concede there was a bankruptcy filing that occurred at the height of the financial meltdown during the lingering recession that began in late 2007 and temporarily left Botello unemployed, Botello formulated an exit plan by which he liquidated a portion of his assets and freed up capital to catch up on and extinguish all of his debts before exiting bankruptcy without defaulting permanently on any of his loans. It is absolutely untrue that Botello has been arrested or has a criminal record of any sort, according to Miller.
Meanwhile, Sanchez and his campaign have set about drafting a lawsuit of their own in which they will contend that with their misuse of the legal process, they are violating Sanchez’s free speech rights.

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