Judge issues arrest warrant for wife of embattled El Cajon councilman
A San Diego Superior Court judge has issued an arrest warrant for the wife of an El Cajon councilman after she failed to appear for a scheduled hearing in a case in which the couple is being sued for fraud and defamation.
Judge Timothy B. Taylor issued the order Friday against Jessica Kalasho, one of the co-defendants in a civil lawsuit against El Cajon Councilman Bessmon “Ben” Kalasho and his for-profit business group, the Middle Eastern Chamber of Commerce.
It was not immediately clear Friday if police or sheriff’s deputies would search for Jessica Kalasho and arrest her on sight, or if she would be given an opportunity to turn herself in to law enforcement or to the court.
Jessica Kalasho was supposed to attend what’s called a debtor’s review, a proceeding at which plaintiffs are allowed to question defendants about their personal assets. Neither Kalasho nor the couple’s lawyer returned a message seeking comment on Friday.
One of the allegations leveled by the plaintiffs’ lawyers is that the Kalashos have hidden personal assets to avoid paying a potential judgment. They are being sued for allegedly creating false social-media accounts to disparage their critics.
Jimmie Davis Parker, one of the lawyers suing the councilman and his wife, said the Friday development would not deter him from pursuing the case.
“It’s unfortunate that the Kalashos continue to fail to respect the law and today’s failure has resulted in a San Diego County judge issuing a warrant for the arrest of Mrs. Kalasho,” he said. “Notwithstanding the Kalashos’ disrespect for the process, we will continue to press for justice in the case and look forward to bringing the matter before a jury.”
Ben Kalasho was not required to appear in court Friday, but his wife was scheduled to appear and to bring documents related to their financial status.
At a similar hearing two weeks ago, when Ben Kalasho failed to fully cooperate with the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Judge Taylor threatened to send the councilman directly to jail, and issued a contempt order he later recalled.
“How would you like to spend the weekend in custody?” the judge asked Kalasho when the litigants returned to court Aug. 17 to discuss the lack of progress in the debtor’s review. “If you don’t quit fooling around, I’m going to have you placed in custody.”
The judge also reminded Kalasho that he is an elected official who should set a better example for his constituents.
“This is a disgrace,” Judge Taylor said. “Sir, you are a public official elected by the people of El Cajon. You’re treating this like a game.”
The councilman agreed to cooperate more fully but the plaintiffs’ attorneys are not satisfied and are preparing paperwork asking the judge to hold Kalasho in contempt.
Kalasho and his wife were sued last year by a group of plaintiffs, including two contestants in the Miss Middle East USA Beauty Pageant, an event promoted by the for-profit chamber of commerce that Kalasho runs out of his Fletcher Hills home.
One contestant accused the councilman of offering her the crown if she slept with him; the other said Kalasho or his wife posted her face on photos of naked women on the internet following a dispute over the prize money. The other plaintiffs, a San Diego lawyer and a group of restaurant owners, accused the couple of creating fake social media profiles to disparage their businesses.
Kalasho denied the allegations in a counter lawsuit, which was soon dismissed.
The debtor’s review was scheduled because the Kalashos were accused of hiding $1 million or more in personal assets ahead of a potential jury award.
Kalasho was a Democrat. He was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike at a recent council meeting for his legal troubles, and then he attempted to register to vote as a Federalist. Because that is not a qualified party in California, he has been reclassified on voter rolls with no party preference.
McDonald writes for the San Diego Union Tribune.
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