UPDATE! Not Wanted: Sean J. Baggett
Judge lifts tea party-endorsed school board candidate’s $30,000 DUI-related warrant after fine is partially paid
On the same day that a story about the controversy appeared in the Pasadena Weekly’s online edition, Pasadena Board of Education candidate Sean J. Baggett surrendered to the court on a 20-month-old $30,000 bench warrant stemming from a 2008 arrest on suspicion of drunken driving and subsequent conviction for reckless driving.
Baggett surrendered Friday morning, a few hours prior to the publication of a story in which a Pasadena police official urged the candidate to turn himself in. Unbeknownst to police or reporters, Baggett was doing just that, only at the courthouse, across the street from the police station. Baggett was called for comment on his cell phone five times throughout Friday, but did not return any of those calls.
The Pasadena Weekly on Thursday obtained court documents indicating Baggett was wanted for failing to appear in court and for not paying his fine. Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte Riddle on Friday said police records indicated the warrant was still in effect. Late Friday afternoon, Riddle said, “I strongly encourage Mr. Baggett to turn himself in to the Police Department to clear up this matter as soon as possible.”
Although he did not return repeated calls, Baggett emailed reporters just before 9 p.m. Friday, deeming the story “false” and announcing that he had paid his fine, the warrant was lifted and that he wanted a correction. “I made payment on the fine this morning [Friday] and the bench warrant was lifted. Please immediately correct your story which is posted on the Internet,” wrote Baggett, who faces Board of Education incumbent Tom Selinske in the April 19 runoff election.
The traffic warrant is but the latest in a series of personal run-ins that the 39-year-old Baggett has had with law enforcement and prosecutors since the early 1990s, offenses that include driving under the influence and petty theft.
But it has been Baggett’s more recent behavior — a 2006 charge of public urination at the Rose Bowl, a 2008 DUI arrest and failure to make payments on the fine levied for that offense, and a San Diego civil judge’s December 2008 order for him to pay a finance company nearly $14,000, which has not been paid, according to court documents — that most concerned private investigator Larry O’Brien, who provided the court documents to the PW.
Father of small children attending Pasadena schools, O’Brien said it didn’t take very long for him to turn up Baggett’s criminal past and his problems in civil court. It also only took a few phone calls to determine that many of the job references and educational accomplishments listed on Baggett’s resume are not completely true.
Baggett, who was supported by the Pasadena Patriots, an affiliate of the tea party, came in second place in the March 8 election for Seat 6 on the Pasadena Board of Education, forcing a runoff against Selinske, who received the most votes but failed to win the simple majority needed for outright victory.
“How he got away with it for so long is probably a sad commentary on us. It’s troubling,” O’Brien said of Baggett. “I think these are things that people should know.”
According to Pasadena Superior Court records, Baggett was arrested May 6, 2008, on one count each of suspicion of driving under the influence and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol/drug level above 0.08. Baggett agreed to a plea deal that reduced the charge to “wet” reckless — a reckless driving charge pled down from a DUI. Baggett was ordered to complete a drug and alcohol program and pay $1,486.
Baggett completed the program and was given an abstract by the court to renew his driver’s license, which had been suspended. On April 8, 2009, Baggett received a 60-day extension to pay the fine. Neither Baggett nor his attorney appeared in court on July 17 to pay the fine, and Judge Gus Gomez, a former Glendale City Councilman, ordered a warrant for his arrest, setting bail at $30,000.
“If Mr. Baggett surrenders to the Police Department, he will be processed just as any citizen would be for an outstanding warrant,” said Riddle. “We have a protocol, and if he can post bail, he will bail out with a promise to appear. If not, he will be held over and taken to the magistrate on the next business day. If he does not turn himself in and he is stopped by a patrol officer in the course of his duties, then he could be arrested if the officer determines there is an outstanding warrant.”
This is not the first time in recent weeks that Baggett has been involved in a police matter.
The week before the March 8 election, a juvenile volunteer at a Highland Park continuation school was accused of making hateful threats against a gay couple ostensibly while making phone calls to help Baggett’s campaign. It was not immediately known how the teen knew the couple he was calling was gay. Baggett has denied any knowledge of the call. Police are currently investigating the incident.
O’Brien said he was shocked at what came up when he started checking Baggett’s name against public records.
“We have a tough enough time in the Pasadena public schools with fighting the misperception that the district is not performing well and all the infighting on the board,” O’Brien said. “It undercuts the good things that are happening, and I can just see the headlines now if a person with Baggett’s background is elected. It does nothing to help us.”
In 2006, charges filed against Baggett were dropped after he was cited on suspicion of urinating in public at the Rose Bowl. In a published report, Baggett said that he was with his dog near a wooded area near the stadium and couldn’t hold it any longer and was forced to use the woods to relieve himself.
Twelve years prior to that, Baggett failed to appear on another reckless driving case, which was also originally filed as DUI in Santa Cruz County. The year before that, in 1993, he paid a $250 fine after pleading guilty to petty theft.
From the outset, Baggett’s campaign has been filled with half-truths about his affiliation with the tea party and his employment history. In an interview with this newspaper, Baggett stated flatly that he had never been arrested or charged with a crime.
For months he claimed he had no affiliation to the tea party, despite employing Amy Ellison, who heads Pasadena’s TeaPAC, as a campaign consultant. Baggett also claimed he was an adjunct instructor at Pasadena City College, a track and field strength and conditioning coach with Caltech and an adjunct professor at Cal State Sacramento. According to documents obtained by the Weekly, he has not worked for Cal State Sacramento since 2005. In addition, he was a stipend employee at PCC, making only $1,000 for 10 months of work. Baggett was actually a volunteer at Caltech.