Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) has pleaded not guilty to a felony grand theft charge that she shoplifted at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.
The incident, caught on video surveillance, occurred Sunday afternoon when the lawmaker left the department store with a shopping bag containing leather pants and other clothing worth $2,445 that she hadn't paid for, prosecutors said.
Hayashi, who faces one count of grand theft, pleaded not guilty Thursday and is out on bail. Her spokesman, Sam Singer, called the incident "a mistake and a misunderstanding."
"She has never had more than a speeding ticket in her life," he said.
He said Hayashi had planned to purchase the items — even calling a salesperson to set up the transaction on a separate floor — but then "got distracted, had a snack in the cafe" and left the store.
Security approached her "before she had a chance to walk back in," Singer said.
"The assemblywoman apologizes for the misunderstanding and for the distraction it has caused," he said. "She strongly believes in the justice system and is hopeful this matter will be cleared up shortly."
Hayashi, who will be termed out of the Assembly next year, chairs the lower house's Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection. She is married to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis Hayashi and has contributed at least $54,953 of her own campaign money to his judicial bids.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said he was withholding judgment.
"The speaker believes that it's important that all the facts come to light through the court process and that Ms. Hayashi has the same right to due process as everyone else," said Pérez spokesman John Vigna. "It's important this issue be resolved in the appropriate venue of the courts."
She is due back in court on Nov. 15, when a preliminary hearing will be set.