BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
This week we’ll learn about one of the few things California State Assemblymember Mike Gatto is good at. You’ll recall this is the “gentleman” who sows discord in the Armenian community, misleads constituents about how he’ll vote on issues dear to their hearts, and uses his power in less than savory ways. Remember, he’s running against Greg Krikorian who has done the exact opposite!
Things seem to get done and written that benefit Mike Gatto politically. I’ve noticed, however, that he’s really good at keeping himself at some remove from those. His fingerprints are not to be found at the scene.
The easiest example is a blog, whose name I won’t give so not to publicize a website that is replete with libelous statements. This blog is totally anonymous. No one knows who owns and publishes it. Most of the material published supports Mike Gatto or attacks those opposed to him. There is some other material, but only enough to make it seem like a legitimate publication, rather than the Gatto mouthpiece it really is.
The most complex example of Gatto’s “Not me, I wasn’t there, you can’t prove anything” approach is one where he was able to subvert the court system to attack one of his perceived enemies. He is a lawyer, after all, and knows that territory well.
The story starts with the first time Mike Gatto ran for office. Once his questionable behavior started to become evident, Peter Musurlian, documentary producer, videographer and Emmy-nominated journalist took it upon himself to expose Gatto. Naturally, Mike didn’t appreciate this, and, after getting elected, struck back. But, once again, he did it through others. One of his staffers, Christine Aghakhani, filed for a restraining order against Peter, claiming she felt threatened by him when he was filming at various Gatto events. But that’s not all. She also included three other staffers’ names, and Gatto himself, as people who needed “protection.” It’s also worth noting by using Aghakhani, because she’s Armenian, Gatto is able sow more discord in the Armenians by pitting one community member against another!
After the matter landed in court, somehow, one of the four was removed from the list. This was someone who was later let go from Gatto’s office. Aghakhani claimed that at a town hall meeting she “felt” threatened by Peter, but she backpedaled on the stand about some of the accusations she had made against Peter in writing. Of course, none of this has any merit, not just because anyone who knows Peter will tell you that’s not his style, but because he was never close to that staff member and the whole thing is on video. Unfortunately, the judge did not thoroughly review the tape and seemed confused by some of the visual evidence during the court hearings. He granted a much reduced restraining order (from the original request that Peter, for three years, stay at least one hundred yards away from five people, to the final judgment of staying 10 yards away from one person for one year). At least the judge saw through the smokescreen thrown up of all the people who allegedly needed protection.
Clearly, Gatto failed in part. He was not able to hide from proper public scrutiny which is what the original restraining order request was clearly meant to do. Gatto did succeed in tainting Peter. This case has already been used to “discredit” Peter by one of Gatto’s political consultants.
Sadly by granting a restraining order, the judge became Mike Gatto’s unwitting pawn. He failed to recognize this was a political and free speech matter, not a judicial one. I do have some sympathy for the judge on one level, in that he is confronted with the problem of “what if there is a risk and I don’t act to prevent it.” Though had he looked at all the video Peter provided, the judge would have gotten his answer.
Interesting and important to note is that shortly after this whole mess, Aghakhani was no longer working for Gatto. The story I heard is she was fired. Wouldn’t any rational person conclude that Gatto got what he needed from her and then ditched her?
There you have it. You can see how Mike Gatto operates: target people (his own constituents, no less), find some lackey to do the dirty work so Gatto has distance and deniability, smear the intended target with concocted invective, abuse any societal system available to serve your own purposes.
Once again, I put the question to voters: Is this type of debased behavior acceptable from someone who is supposed to stand up for our interests? Let’s make sure Mike Gatto no longer has the opportunity to keep up these shenanigans from the high office he holds.