Feds Seize Stockton Mayor’s Laptops and Phone at S.F. Airport

Monday, October 05, 2015
Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva

Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, who is locked in a battle for re-election in his recently bankrupt city, was detained by federal agents at San Francisco International Airport last week as he returned from a China trip with other mayors.

They confiscated two laptops and a cellphone before letting him leave. Silva said he was not allowed to leave until he surrendered his passwords and was told he could not have an attorney present.  

The mayor said in a statement he was told it was a “routine seizure.” But Fox News reported they were told by unnamed sources he was under joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Stockton Record’s Roger Phillips blogged on Friday that Silva’s attorney, Mark Reichel, filed a motion in federal court to get the electronics back. Silva’s statement said: “I don’t believe that any American would want any government agency to read through your e-mails, text messages, and social media without a warrant.”

But just in case it is legal for them to seize his stuff, he said, “I am confident that any forensic search of my personal devices will never ever show illegal or inappropriate activities of any sort.” 

Stockton (pop. 300,000) emerged from bankruptcy in February, nearly three years after becoming the largest city in the U.S. to crash and burn. The already poor city overreached during the housing boom and was shredded during the bust. The scramble to claim what resources and assets remained exacerbated already-deep political divisions between haves and have-nots.

Silva was elected mayor in November 2012, defeating the incumbent 58%-42%, just a few months after the city declared bankruptcy.

The mayor has been the subject of at least two prior local investigations that ended without charges. In 2012, a woman who was cleaning his house accused him of sexual battery. She said he tried to make her drink alcohol, spanked her and called her a “bad girl.” The police referred the case to the District Attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute.

Shortly after the D.A.’s decision, an anonymous e-mail circulated that included a copy of a Stockton Unified School District Police Department report about Silva. The report said the department received a complaint in 2005 that accused the former water polo coach of secretly videotaping girls who used the restroom or changed clothes in his home.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Silva Detained, at Least Briefly, at SFO (by Roger Phillips, Stockton Record)

Prominent California Mayor Detained by Federal Agents After Trip to China (by Malia Zimmerman, Claudia Cowan, Fox News)

Small Town Mayor Relinquishes Electronics and Passwords to Agents at SFO (by Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica)

Silva’s Attorney Files Motion to Get Two Laptops and Cell Phone Back from Feds (by Roger Phillips, Stockton Record)

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