SF politicos stand up for Ballard
A profile of Ballard in "San Francisco" magazine's "Power Issue" from December 2016 described him as a "preeminent media whisperer" who represents a "veritable Yellow Pages of powerful clients." He's frequently quoted by the press as an insider with intimate knowledge of Gov. Gavin Newsom, whom he represented when Newsom was mayor.
Yet his actions in October took a toll. In court documents, Ballard claims his $10 million public relations agency "collapsed overnight."
His clients? They "fled," he told the court.
But his agency's collapse didn't stop him from tapping some of those friends in high places to help him. More than 40 friends (and some family) wrote mitigation letters in his defense, asking the family court for leniency. That proceeding was separate from the ongoing Napa County criminal court case, but was related as it dealt with the custody of their children, and was legally intertwined.
"On a personal level, I would say I know him very well and Nate has shown me that he is a good and decent human being," wrote Kathy Black, the more-than-20-year executive director of La Casa de las Madres, a domestic violence support group in San Francisco.
The organization provides a 24-hour hotline to domestic abuse survivors, domestic abuse prevention education, and long-term support services. The organization's stated mission is to "stand for a safer San Francisco."
In her defense of Ballard, Black wrote that "over that [sic] last two decades, Nate has become a trusted friend, strategist, and ally to La Casa," adding, "While I cannot speak to this case and its very serious allegations, I just do not believe that it is in Nate's nature to hurt anyone — period."
Former San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr also wrote in defense of Ballard, saying, "In our many conversations about life, relationships, and family, what couldn't be any clearer is his love for his kids. He is a devoted father."
Ballard has previously represented the police officers' union as a spokesperson, defending Suhr's police force in the public sphere.
Suhr added, "I will not comment on Nate's current criminal case in your county as I know nothing more about it other that [sic] what I've read in the papers. I can and will say I don't believe for a minute that it is in Nate to ever hurt anyone; and it is inconceivable to me that he could ever hurt a child."
"Nate," Suhr wrote, "is a good man."
Ballard's mitigation letters include other movers and shakers:
- Martin Halloran, past president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association
- Former San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell
- Ramona Prieto, retired California Highway Patrol deputy commissioner
- Former San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier
- Erin Garvey, senior director of operations communications at PG&E
- Tom O'Connor, past president of San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798
- Joanna Rees, managing partner at market creation company West and board member of The Representation Project
Reinhardt's attorney, Amanda Bevins, was a partner in a Danville law firm for 18 years and said she often represented wealthy and well-connected clients. Still, she told KQED, the level of support Ballard garnered from influential people, considering the allegations against him, was "unusual."
"The letters stink of cronyism and everything that is wrong with the 'rich white boy' politics of San Francisco," Bevins said.
In announcing the verdict against Ballard, Napa County Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind said it's common for high-profile abusers to use their prestige in the community to their advantage.
“The abuser uses their prominence to intimidate and further control their victims," Lind said. "[T]hreatening to use their power to continue the abuse and assassination of character of the victims are features used to deflect personal responsibility and accountability for their wrongdoing. The Napa County District Attorney’s Office amplifies the voices of survivors, and this brave survivor refuses to be cowed by continued bullying or minimization of criminal behavior.”
Ballard told KQED on Tuesday he could have "destroyed" Reinhardt's credibility if he had not chosen to settle the case.
“If Mara had taken the stand and made these allegations under oath, we would have destroyed her credibility with mountains of documentary evidence and contradictory statements," Ballard wrote. "But destroying Mara’s credibility would have done little to restore my reputation, so I chose to settle the case and move on."
Seeing prominent people in power defend her former husband strikes fear in Reinhardt.
"Nate always makes sure that everyone knows that he is highly connected to powerful people: The Governor, The Vice President, various Congressmen and Women, Senators, Mayors, SF Police Chief, District Attorneys, many more people of influence in both the political and private world," Reinhardt said in her statement. "He was written up as one of the 10 most powerful people in San Francisco. He never let me forget it."
Notably, in order for Reinhardt to secure an agreement from Ballard to not see their children for six years, she agreed to withdraw a domestic violence restraining order she had filed after the assault, and to take the unusual step of sealing the declaration attached to the order's petition. Without the information from that declaration being in the public sphere, Ballard has more ability to control the narrative — a tactic Reinhardt says she knows all too well.
The agreement to withdraw the restraining order and seal Reinhardt's declaration was "totally motivated" by Ballard's own desire to protect his image, Bevins alleges.
"Long after we leave here today," Reinhardt said, "I know that Nate will spend his life trying to spin yet another story, to destroy me, the children, and most likely anyone associated with this case."
In two years, the family law court may consider allowing Ballard to have contact with his two young children again.
Read Mara Reinhardt's full victim impact statement, which she read aloud in Napa County Superior Court on Aug. 19:
Resources for survivors of domestic violence
Have you been or are you being harmed by domestic violence? Find help via these resources, in the Bay Area and beyond:
- Center for Domestic Peace: Call their 24/7 English-Spanish hotline at (415) 924-6616. Shelter requests are handled via this number, as are appointments for legal advocacy services.
- Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic: CROC provides free legal services to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking survivors: (415) 969-6711.
- Family Violence Law Center: Call (800) 947-8301 for legal services as well as 24-hour crisis intervention and support.
- La Casa de las Madres: For support, resources and safety planning, call their 24/7 hotline at (877) 503-1850. You can also contact them via text at (415) 200-3575.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call (800) 799-7233, or (800) 799-7233 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, go online or text LOVEIS to 22522.
- STAND! For Families Free of Violence, Contra Costa County: STAND's toll-free crisis line remains active 24 hours a day at (888) 215-5555.
- WOMAN, Inc. (Women Organized to Make Abuse Nonexistent): Offers 24/7 support line services, remote counseling via Zoom, Google Hangouts and phone calls in English and Spanish at (877) 384-3578.