Joel Young is a rising star in the East Bay political world. Just two years ago, he was appointed to the AC Transit board of directors, and he’s currently a top tier candidate for state Assembly. But over the past several months, the 34-year-old ex-football player from Cal has been quietly battling in court to save his political career. His ex-girlfriend filed a restraining order against him in March, saying he struck her repeatedly. Young then responded with a restraining order request of his own, saying she attacked him in a jealous rage. And while an Alameda County Superior Court judge recently dismissed the restraining order requests, it was not before he cast doubt on both Young and his ex-girlfriend’s versions of what happened.
At a court hearing, Judge Morris Jacobsen strongly implied that he didn’t believe Young’s claim that his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Juarez, had attacked him after finding him in bed with another woman and that he was merely defending himself. “The injuries she sustained go well beyond the reasonable need to self-defend,” the judge said, referring to the extensive bruising on Juarez’s face, according to a transcript of the proceeding. “There were significant injuries on her. Well, more than necessary for a man, and I am going to take into account that it appears to me that Ms. Juarez is approximately 5-foot, 120 pounds.”
Juarez alleged that Young had repeatedly struck her in the face and temple, in addition to “cranking” her head against the bed. She also submitted to the court a medical report from UCSF Medical Center where she was treated two days after the incident, along with sworn statements from friends and colleagues, all attorneys, who had noticed her bruised and swollen face. Still, despite this evidence, Judge Jacobsen also expressed doubts about Juarez’s credibility after Young’s lawyer noted inconsistencies in her version of what happened.
According to court records, the judge also had repeatedly urged Young and Juarez to settle their dispute without the need for restraining orders. Both Young and Juarez are attorneys, and permanent restraining orders could damage their legal careers, not to mention Young’s political aspirations. But the two sides were unable to reach agreement, so the judge dismissed the legal dispute. Juarez said she plans to file a lawsuit against Young, seeking reimbursement for her legal and medical bills.
At this point, it’s unclear what the legal case’s effects will be, if any, on Young’s run for state Assembly. He’s attempting to replace Sandré Swanson, who is being termed out next year. Young was appointed to the AC Transit board in 2009, replacing Rebecca Kaplan after she won a seat on the Oakland City Council. Young then won reelection last year to the AC Transit board after securing numerous big-name endorsements. Through the first half of this year, the Young for Assembly Committee had pulled in more than $130,000 in donations, mostly on the strength of Young’s contacts in the legal profession, campaign finance records show. The early haul puts him strongly in the hunt with other contenders for the seat, including Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, former Oakland Port Commissioner Kathy Neal, and Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen.
The following account of the Young-Juarez dispute comes from court records:
The two met about five years ago while Juarez was at UC Berkeley. She eventually graduated with a law degree focused on civil rights. He also graduated from Boalt Hall. Through the years, Young and Juarez were linked by a friend of a friend until a romance began last fall at a fundraising event for Young. As months passed, according to Juarez, the relationship quickly progressed to the point where she thought it was exclusive. According to Juarez, Young had started looking for apartments for the purpose of moving in together.
According to Juarez, who then resided in San Francisco, she often stayed at Young’s place near Lake Merritt for days at a time only to return across the bay to pick up clothes and other items for the week. A sworn statement provided by a colleague, who is also a lawyer, backed the assertion that Juarez often spent days at Young’s apartment. According to Juarez, Young had given her a key to his apartment and urged her to make herself at home when he wasn’t there.
Young, by contrast, adamantly denied in court documents that their relationship was exclusive. According to him, the two agreed to casual sex while seeing other people. He also denied ever giving her a key to his apartment, and said she must have swiped one from him. (She said that he sometimes took the key off her key ring when she wasn’t looking, which fueled suspicion that there was another woman in his life.)
Regardless, from all accounts, Juarez entered Young’s apartment at approximately 5:30 a.m. on March 7 and found the AC Transit board member in bed with another woman. “You piece of shit!” she screamed, according to both accounts. “I knew it, motherfucker!” she continued while repeating the phrase “I knew it!”
All three in the room, including Juarez, agree that Juarez slapped Young in the face. Young also believes that Juarez had an object in her hand, possibly the key she used to enter the apartment, and used it to scratch his face and gouge his bare torso. (According to records reviewed for this story, Juarez denied having an object in her hand, but said she might have scratched him while he was holding her down on the bed.)
“How long have you been fucking?” Juarez yelled as the other woman hurriedly grabbed her belongings. The woman, according to Juarez, was unaware Young had a girlfriend. Once the woman exited the room, Juarez reported, Young brutally struck Juarez in the face and repeatedly plunged her head into the bed. Juarez said she then followed the other woman outside of the bedroom and quizzed her about her involvement with Young. According to Juarez, when she returned to the bedroom, Young again struck her in the face and “cranked” her head into the bed more forcefully than the first time. According to Young, however, Juarez had become so intense that he was forced to physically hold her down on the bed with hopes it would compel her to calm down.
“Stop! Stop! You’re hurting me! I’m going to call the cops,” Juarez said, by all accounts — although the other woman was no longer in the room.
After the other woman left the apartment and adrenaline from the altercation began to subside, Juarez said Young began apologizing and grabbed a chilled container from the freezer to contain the swelling on her face. “I have never done this before,” said Young, according to Juarez. “I’ve been under a lot of pressure with work lately. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I fucked up this relationship.”
Two days later, Juarez went to the emergency room at UCSF Medical Center. The medical report details injuries to Juarez’s face and neck. She also complained of pain surrounding her right eye. Medical personnel feared that Juarez might have sustained damage to the orbital bone and ordered a CT scan, which ultimately came back negative. The medical report also makes reference to redness on her scalp.
Although the senior physician’s assistant at UCSF’s emergency room found the injuries non-threatening, she concluded that they were the result of domestic abuse. The physician’s assistant stated in a sworn declaration to the court that the injuries “were consistent with the patient’s allegation of assault” and “[i]n over 20 years of my professional treatment of injury patients in the emergency room, I have not seen such injuries associated with a claim of self-defense from the alleged assailant.”
Although the physician’s assistant filed a suspicious injury report and contacted the San Francisco Police Department’s domestic violence investigation unit, she said that Juarez declined to speak to anyone in law enforcement during her emergency room visit. It’s a common request of recent victims of domestic abuse, the physician’s assistant said. “A majority of the domestic violence cases that I have seen in the emergency setting choose not to have police involved secondary to their own fear around retaliation by the assailant or related to some initial reluctance to accept that they are a victim of domestic violence,” she said.
In addition, four of Juarez’s colleagues, who are all attorneys, submitted sworn statements describing noticeable bruising on Juarez’s face and her attempts to conceal the injuries with excessive amounts of makeup, along with noting that she was depressed in the days after the alleged incident.
By contrast, a good deal of Young’s defense and his counterclaim that he was attacked has centered on portraying Juarez as attempting to destroy his legal and political career. As Juarez walked to her car on the morning of March 7, Young said she muttered, “I will get you back for this” before driving away and giving him the finger. (She admitted to flipping him off, but denied making that statement.)
Young has also claimed that Juarez and her former attorney attempted to extort money from him. Lawyers for Young claimed Juarez asked for $35,000 to settle the matter. However, a sworn declaration filed by Juarez’s former lawyer provided a different account. On April 4, San Diego attorney David Rosenberg said he contacted Young’s attorney urging for a settlement to the case. Rosenberg said Darryl Stallworth, Young’s attorney at the time, was “optimistic” about the offer and said his client would be willing to remedy the woman’s medical bills, agree to stay-away orders, and attend domestic violence classes. Rosenberg said he was surprised that Young then apparently changed his mind and filed a request for a restraining order against Juarez, claiming that he was the victim. In an interview, Young vehemently denied ever offering to attend domestic violence classes.
Although police were never summoned on March 7, Juarez later called a domestic violence hotline and talked to an Oakland police officer. And while Young has repeatedly claimed that Juarez was trying to destroy his career, she appears to have avoided the spotlight. She did not contact the Express, requesting a story, and, in fact, did not at first respond to this reporter’s requests for an interview.
In addition, a colleague of Juarez, who is also a family law attorney, said in a declaration to the court that she accompanied Juarez to the police department and recalled that Juarez inquired if the police report would be a public record because she did not want her name linked to Young’s for fear of retaliation. She also said Juarez never volunteered Young’s name to police. In an August 17 filing, Juarez said she never brought the incident to the attention of the media for fear of reprisals from Young and his colleagues and supporters.
Despite temporary restraining orders granted by the court earlier this year against both Young and Juarez, Juarez claimed that he continued to harass her. She said Young sent her a March 24 text message saying, “I assume that U are upset…But I want to let u know that I’m sorry.” An e-mail July 22 from Juarez to her new attorney stated, “JY runs around the lake right next to my house all the time. I have seen him repeatedly but have not wanted to call the cops because it is rather hard to prove he ran in front of my house. I hope we can agree to a settlement.”
Four days later, she crossed paths with Young in a public space in Oakland, according to her and a police report made by Young. Young alleged that Juarez had violated the temporary restraining order against her, but Juarez contended that his actions were more menacing. “Upon seeing Joel Young,” she wrote, “I went in the opposite direction. As soon as I turned around, Young came towards me and began to run … he followed me.” In addition, she alleged that Young sent “sadistic death threats” by way of placing movie titles featuring films with themes centering on the killing of a loved one in her Netflix queue that they once shared.
In his rebuttal, Young described Juarez as volatile and prone to violence and pique, but he detailed only one argument occurring in January in which he said she slammed a ceramic bowl into the garbage. Young said the ferocity of her anger that night compelled him to retreat to his bedroom, lock the door, and stay in the room away from Juarez until the next morning.
Lawyers for Young also argued that the woman’s statements regarding the chain of events during the alleged incident are inconsistent. For instance, they said, she appeared to reference just one attack in her conversation with the physician’s assistant on March 9, but later claimed that Young had attacked her twice. The inconsistencies did not go unnoticed by Judge Jacobsen. According to a court transcript, he said at one hearing: “I’ve reached the conclusion that she has significant credibility issues.”
But the judge also had trouble believing the state Assembly candidate. “Mr. Young is saying he didn’t touch, hit, shake, or do anything other than to push her on the body until she calmed down,” the judge said, according to a court transcript. “There clearly was a lot more than that, okay.”