State

White vows to stay on council, in GOP Assembly race

RIVERBANK — Jesse James White, the councilman and Republican candidate for Assembly, dug in his heels Wednesday, saying he would not resign or drop out of the GOP primary after his arrest last week on drug charges.

"I believe I deserve my due process rights," said the 21-year-old during a news conference with his attorney in front of the Riverbank Police Department.

The event drew about a dozen of White's supporters and family members.

White and his attorney reiterated their claims that City Manager Rich Holmer, Police Chief Bill Pooley and Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson plotted against White. (Riverbank contracts with the Sheriff's Department for police services.)

White was arrested Friday after a probation search turned up small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, according to Christianson.

But White is facing more problems — from a police stop in April to the county Republican Party chairman calling for him to drop out of the Assembly race to a potential recall campaign against his council seat.

White is one of six Republicans on the June 8 ballot seeking the party's nomination in the 25th Assembly District, which spans Modesto to Madera.

"This is not good for the Republican Party," said Jim DeMartini, a Stanislaus County supervisor and chairman of the Republican Party of Stanislaus County. "If I were Jesse James White, I'd drop out of the race until I got my personal life back in order and try again another day."

On April 10, an Oakdale police officer who searched White's sport utility vehicle found two pipes that typically are used to smoke marijuana, said Oakdale Police Chief Marty West on Wednesday evening.

West said the officer told him both pipes smelled of marijuana, but there was not enough residue in the pipes to test them for the drug. The officer said White showed no signs of being impaired or having used the drug.

The officer stopped White because of a crack in the windshield of his 2008 Ford Escape and the large number of signs in the SUV. The signs were for his Assembly campaign.

West said the officer found one pipe in the center console and the other pipe in a passenger door compartment as he searched the vehicle for identification. White did not have his driver's license with him, West said.

White said the pipes were not his and the SUV belonged to a family member, West said. The officer let White go with a verbal warning.

White did not return a call Wednesday evening. But his attorney, Mary Lynn Belsher, said: "We will respond as soon as we know more about it. I will investigate this. You can count on that."

White could face scrutiny and calls to step down from the Riverbank City Council at Monday's meeting, which was moved from the council chambers to the community center to accommodate the large crowd that is expected.

Holmer, the city manager, said the city has received 47 questions regarding when the next council meeting would be, where would it be, and would White resign or be removed at the meeting.

White does not have to resign, but can be removed if he is convicted of a felony. Charges have not been filed against him from Friday's arrest. The police report was sent Wednesday to the district attorney's office.

Riverbank resident Dotty Ny-gard — who spearheaded a failed recall campaign against White and his fellow council member and grandfather, Dave White, in 2009 — said there "is a strong possibility" that she and other members of Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change would mount a recall campaign against Jesse James White if he did not resign.

Mayor Virginia Madueño, Councilwoman Sandra Benitez and Councilman Danny Fielder also have called for White to step down.

White's campaign signs for the Assembly now have "framed" spray-painted over them in red.

White claims Holmer is out to get him because White and his grandfather blocked a sewer rate increase, and White has criticized how much Holmer and other top city officials earn, claiming they are overpaid.

White also said he is starting a petition drive in Riverbank so residents can vote on whether they want to repeal a 2005-06 job classification and compensation study that resulted in pay raises for some city employees.

Holmer has denied involvement with White's recent legal trouble.

White and his lawyer claim Christianson got involved in the case because it would benefit him politically in his re-election campaign, which the sheriff has denied.

DeMartini called that "far-fetched."

"I don't think the sheriff has done anything inappropriate," DeMartini said. "If you are on probation, you are subject to being searched."

White was placed on three years' probation June 4, 2007, after entering a no contest plea to "wet and reckless" driving. He had been charged with misdemeanor driving while under the influence of alcohol, misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and having a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent while under the age of 21.

The terms of White's probation include that he, his vehicle and his home are subject to searches for alcohol and controlled substances, according to court records.

White is on a list of Riverbank residents on probation. But he said he had never been searched until Friday.

Christianson said that low- level probationers such as White typically aren't searched unless they come to the attention of law enforcement.

Authorities have said they had a reason to look at White after his 19-year-old brother was arrested Jan. 25 on drug charges. The brother gave deputies information that led them to take a closer look at White and conduct a probation search Friday, the sheriff has said.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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