|Liberal Democrat lawmaker swipes clothing|
The 45-year-old Castro Valley Democrat, wife of a Bay Area judge, pleaded not guilty Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court and is free on $15,000 bail pending further proceedings Nov. 15.
Sam Singer, spokesman for Hayashi, said the arrest occurred after she left the store while using her cellular phone.
"The incident in San Francisco was a mistake and a misunderstanding," Singer said. "The assemblywoman strongly believes in the justice system and is hopeful that this matter will be cleared up soon."
The veteran lawmaker was placed under citizen's arrest by security officers outside Neiman Marcus after leaving the store without paying for clothing items, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
Hayashi had passed several cash registers without stopping and the incident was captured on videotape. The stolen good were recovered and have been booked into evidence. Leather pants, a black skirt and a white blouse were the merchandise involved.
Maximum sentence is three years in prison for grand theft, but first-time offenders typically do not receive such stiff sentences, according to a spokesman for the San Francisco DA's office.
Hayashi is embarrassed, distraught and she apologizes for any misunderstanding, but she has no intention of resigning from office. Hayashi claims she entered Neiman Marcus with two shopping bags. One contained items purchased from another store; the other had merchandise that she intended to return to Neiman Marcus.
While inside Neiman Marcus, she picked up some additional items to purchase. Distracted while using a cellular phone, she stepped outside briefly "without really thinking about it." She said she immediately realized her mistake, but before she could rectify it, she was stopped by store security officers.
|The crime scene|
The arrest does not disqualify Hayashi from serving in the Legislature.
It is fairly common for Democrats who have committed criminal offenses to retain their seats and even be reelected. Charles Rangel and the late Teddy Kennedy can vouch for that.