Hayashi’s Brain Tumor Defense Gathers No Sympathy


Asm. Mary Hayashi in court.

Jan. 9, 2012 | It’s not quite the Twinkie Defense, but Mary Hayashi’s guilty plea last Friday for shoplifting followed by the shocking admission that a benign brain tumor in her head made her stash $2,450 worth of high-end clothing into her bag has been met with wholesale derision.

The tenor of the reaction so far begs me to ponder this: Hayashi’s constituents–many of whom discount the presence of the tumor–are incredibly callous or is the depth of her poor reputation so far in the dumps not even a life-threatening disease can cast her in a sympathetic light?

Apparently, her spokesman, San Francisco super fixer Sam Singer, was not prepared for the tumult rather than sadness that quickly followed the announcement Friday afternoon. Singer attempted to reset the fallout later in the day when he told KGO-TV the tumor did not affect Hayashi’s judgment last October when she stole a pair of black leather pants and two tops from Neiman Marcus at Union Square. Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Hayashi confidante added, she was “owning up” to her mistake.

The statements refuted the explanation given outside San Francisco Superior Court by Hayashi’s lawyer, Douglas Rappaport, who said “experts” said the tumor could affect a person’s judgment. Her legislative consultant, Ross Warren, also told AP the brain tumor caused her “absentmindedness.”

Singer’s attempt at spin, in this case casting the perpetrator as victim, usually works like a charm, but nobody can top Hayashi when it comes to disharmony. In any other situation, Hayashi’s bombshell should have done the trick and gotten her out of this jam, or at least, give her some breathing room. When I first heard Rappaport’s pained explanation, my first thought was to deem it a slam-dunk flip of the script–a genius ploy. “Do you believe in miracles? Yessss!”

I must say, though, the demeanor of Rappaport when he awkwardly and obliquely offered up the medical issue (What? What medical issue? asked an incredulous reporter) he struck me either uncomfortable to utter the lie or he inexplicably made up the story on the fly. Either way, the story is full-proof. Unless Hayashi blabbers around town that the ailment is a ruse, it is nearly impossible to break through patient privacy laws. If the brain tumor is being treated with medication, as Rappaport indicated, there will never be any visible scars on Hayashi’s head. Based on my observations, though, there are metaphorical scars all over Hayashi.

You must give Hayashi this: she took her punishment like a champ. The group of reporters awaiting her rumored arrival at the San Francisco Hall of Justice had since 9 a.m. that morning exchanged numerous rumor-laden stories and past encounters with Scary Mary. One reporter lamented how difficult it was to find a source willing to say something good about her. I had heard it all before, except for one interesting doozy involving Hayashi once posing as a lesbian to induce a potential lesbian donor to make a campaign contribution.

It was surprising, then, that she entered the hallway adjacent to Courtroom 10 all alone in a dark green jacket, leopard-print pumps and $2,000 black Chanel bag along with haphazard blond streaks in her hair. She appeared dazed and nervous. When she darkened the doorway, she oddly paused, seeming willing to have her visage captured by the television cameras she has consistently loved in the past. She was in no hurry to outrun the press, although she declined to speak. Once inside the court she sat a few seats away from me. She appeared nervous and uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. She continued to don her methorphical armor. She was alone. A woman on a island ready to accept her punishment.

I can’t say whether Hayashi has a shrinking benign Cancer in her head, but I can say this, based on my observations, there is something wrong her. Her eyes darted wildly throughout the ordeal Friday and she was fidgety, not like someone who was nervous, but like someone on drugs. Maybe it’s the meds prescribed for her condition or maybe something else.

If this woman who has quite assuredly ruined her political career with a deeply regrettable error one harmless day last October is now wrestling with her own mortality, don’t you think her husband would accompany her to face her fate in court? Instead, she was as alone as a public figure could possibly be. In addition, if Hayashi, whose reputation is in need of a significant overhaul, wanted to begin the healing by revealing the weight of brain tumor hovering over her life, she would have squared up to the cameras and told the world about the diagnosis herself. She didn’t. In fact, she squirreled away to pay her paltry $180 fine and later dodged the press.

The case is now closed on Hayashi. There isn’t a need to call for her resignation. Hayashi’s term ends this year and her spotty legislative output as of late hasn’t hurt her constituency–of course, she has helped it, either. Her record was never based on the problems of people in the Hayward/San Leandro/Castro Valley area, but rather on beefing up her statewide reputation.

She started her career in this area as a carpetbagger and those type of politicians don’t base their lawmaking on helping people, but by helping themselves. Her once formidable power in the area is now pretty much political Kryptonite unlikely to affect the race for her redrawn assembly seat in 2012. So, just allow her to get healthy, finish her term and wait for the next guy to take over and hope they don’t help themselves to the same bounty Hayashi has over the past five years.