In June, SFR reported on the Democratic nominee Jerome Block Jr.’s previously undisclosed urinating-in-public and DWI-related charges.
In the weeks since, Democratic operatives and Block Jr.’s father, former PRC Commissioner Jerome Block Sr., have sought to deflect criticism of the party’s nominee by referencing Lass’ 1999 arrest for “quarrelling,” a domestic violence charge.
Unlike Block Jr., Lass disclosed the arrest and his subsequent guilty plea to the media in interviews and questionnaires. The arrest was brought up again in a story by Santa Fe New Mexican columnist Steve Terrell, which Block Sr. has used to attack Lass in the electronic press, calling him a “woman beater.”
“Now that you have reported extensively about the grave crime of peeing in the bushes, when will you report about the candidate who beats women,” Block Sr. wrote in a July 3 e-mail to SFR and bloggers Mario Burgos and Joe Monahan.
Block Sr. further accused SFR of biased reporting in a comment on SFR’s 2008 election blog: “[T]he SF Reporter would rather support a woman beater?! By the way, who won the fight, Lass or the girlfriend?”
However, SFR’s investigation of Lass’ case has turned up no evidence of a physical altercation.
In January 1999, 911 operators received a call from Nova Priest, then Lass’ girlfriend, requesting help. Moments later, she was cut off when Lass grabbed the phone and hung up. Forty-five minutes later, the police turned up to find Lass pacing in the living room. Priest had gone to bed, but came out to speak to the police.
“Nova Priest was visibly shaken, crying and nervous,” SFPD officer Al Henzie writes in the report. “When asked what her problem was she said that the two of them were breaking up and had an argument and she was afraid of him.”
No accusations of physical violence were reported to the police, who nonetheless arrested Lass on a domestic disorderly conduct (quarrelling) charge. He spent 24 hours in jail before posting a $750 bond.
SFR was unable to reach Priest, a Santa Fe artist who now goes by a different name.
The court records of the case have since been destroyed, but Lass volunteers that he pleaded guilty to the offense of simple battery.
“I pled guilty because I crossed a boundary and was very angry and threatening and I felt like I should just accept that I did something wrong and go through the system,” Lass tells SFR. “So, I took responsibility for over-reacting and I felt like [pleading guilty] was the right thing to do at the time and I still feel like it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to deny that I crossed that boundary.”
Lass was assigned a heavy regiment of court-ordered courses, including anger management.
“I went through some grief therapy courses and things like that,” Lass says. “I thought they were actually really helpful programs that helped me deal with a lot of repressed anger.”
Provided with the text of the police report via e-mail, Block Sr. declined to amend or retract his previous accusations. He writes: “She was probably afraid he would hit her again!”
SFR also provided Ray Lopez, the instructor for the Santa Fe Rape Crisis and Trauma Treatment Center’s Creative Non-Violence Project for men, with the details of Lass’ 1999 case and his recent statement to SFR.
Lass was not identified to Lopez and, instead, was referenced only as an unnamed candidate for public office.
Lopez calls Lass’ actions following his arrest a “mature reaction,” adding that often men will choose to deny violence to the police or blame it on provocation.
“The fact that he is allowing himself to say this publicly is as big as him taking responsibility, pleading guilty and looking into himself for that repressed anger,” Lopez tells SFR. “That is part of the process a man has to go through, but another big part of the process is going public with it.”