A former San Francisco poll worker who stole dozens of ballots in what his attorney said was an Election Day political protest last year continued his “Gandhi-esque” behavior in court Wednesday, prompting a judge to order him back to jail on the eve of his release.
Karl Bradfield Nicholas, 51, pleaded guilty in December to a felony charge of taking about 75 ballots and a poll list from a District 11 polling place Nov. 2. He was later arrested, and the ballots were found in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts.
Wednesday’s hearing before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne Bouliane was the latest round of odd behavior from Nicholas. He earlier tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his plea deal; at a July 5 hearing, he was tackled by sheriff’s deputies after yelling at his attorney and another judge; and on Monday, he refused to speak to Bouliane at his sentencing hearing.
Bouliane ordered a psychiatric evaluation at that hearing, and Nicholas again refused to talk Wednesday.
“He wouldn’t nod, he wouldn’t acknowledge, he didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no,” District Attorney’s Office spokesman Seth Steward said. “He just didn’t respond to any of the judge’s questions.”
Bouliane then declared doubt as to Nicholas’ competency to understand the proceedings. He will remain in custody until at least Aug. 8, when doctors’ reports are scheduled to be completed.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Nicholas was to be sentenced to a year in County Jail.
With credit for time served, he could have been released July 5, according to his attorney, Stuart Blumstein.
“His [November] offense was a political statement,” Blumstein said after Wednesday’s hearing. “He was upset about the Department of Elections procedures — he felt that they were violating some statute about minors working there, and there might be some truth to that.”
Now, Blumstein said Nicholas appears to be “upset about the judicial process. That’s why he’s not talking.”
Blumstein maintained that while his client has a history of psychiatric issues, he’s still mentally competent.
“It’s Gandhi-esque,” Blumstein said. “Passive resistance.”