Tim Donnelly blames past larceny case on drunken college ‘prank’

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, who previously denied having any criminal record before carrying a gun into an airport in 2012, on Wednesday blamed a larceny case in Michigan in 1985 on a drunken “prank.”

The candidate’s case came at the end of Donnelly’s freshman year at University of Michigan. He left the school, moved to California and enrolled at University of California, Irvine, that fall.

Asked previously whether he had any criminal convictions prior to the airport incident, Donnelly said, “No.”

The Twin Peaks assemblyman told The Bee on Wednesday night that he was telling the truth.

“All I know is that I was never convicted, and that’s it,” Donnelly said. “I was treated as a minor, and it was explained to me then that it would not result in a conviction, it would result in you doing some community service, paying restitution, and if you did that successfully there would be no, there would be nothing. It would be as if it never happened, and that I could honestly say for the rest of my life that I’ve never been convicted.”

Records searches in Michigan produced no evidence of criminal charges ever being filed against Donnelly. But The Ann Arbor News listed a Timothy Michael Donnelly as receiving a fine and three years of probation for “larceny in a building” in a brief item in June 1985.

Donnelly, asked by The Bee about the incident earlier Wednesday, instead called in to the conservative “John and Ken” show in Los Angeles to pre-empt the report. He complained the incident was an insignificant “prank” that happened years ago.

“They want to break a news story about a prank that I pulled in college,” he said on the radio show. “I got busted 30 years ago.”

Asked what he did, Donnelly said, “I got drunk with my buddy, and we left his Sony Walkman in the hallway, and somebody took it. So we started looking for somebody who might have it, and we wound up breaking into somebody else’s room and stealing a stereo from them.”

He said, “When we sobered up we called the cops and told them where it was and, you know, boy, they wanted to throw the book at us.”

He said “the consequences were severe enough for me that I basically quit drinking not long after that.”

Donnelly said he was treated as a minor and that the record was expunged.

Donnelly, one of two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, has said he left Michigan because he longed to escape Midwest winters and to see the beaches of Southern California.

He addressed his old case on the same day a poll showed him leading the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Brown early in this year’s gubernatorial race.

Donnelly, with 10 percent support among likely voters, outpolls his closest GOP competitors by 8 percentage points, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and the best-funded Republican in the race, was supported by 2 percent of likely voters, as was Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

All Republicans trail Brown by an enormous margin. The third-term Democrat is supported by 47 percent of likely voters, while 36 percent of likely voters remain undecided, according to the poll.

Brown is widely expected to win re-election, but the race for second place in June will determine which Republican represents the GOP in the state’s highest-profile race in the fall.

Donnelly, a tea party favorite and former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, leads Kashkari, a more moderate candidate, among all voter groups, including Republicans, independent voters and Latinos, according to the poll.

Kashkari has time to make up ground. In addition to the large percentage of voters who remain undecided, only 37 percent of likely voters say they are following news about the candidates closely at this early stage in the race.

The poll comes at the end of an up-and-down month for Donnelly. He was cheered by activists at the California Republican Party’s convention outside San Francisco, but his campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, left the operation, and Donnelly continued to struggle to raise money.

Donnelly reported Monday that he has less than $11,000 in cash on hand, with unpaid bills of $149,068. Kashkari, meanwhile, has banked more than $900,000, while Brown has nearly $20 million on hand.

Addressing a Republican group in Danville on Tuesday, Donnelly acknowledged needing money but said he could run an effective, low-cost campaign.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star